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DETROIT-The new $431 million North Terminal at Detroit Metropolitan Airport opens today, an 824,000-sf structure with 26 gates that replaces the 1960s-era Smith, Davey and Berry terminals. While the terminal doesn’t have the flash of Northwest Airline’s modern, 96-gate McNamara Terminal that opened a few years ago down the road at the airport, the unassuming North Terminal is still one of the newest in the country, and may get more of a boost if the owning authority is successful at selling naming rights.

The Wayne County Airport Authority hopes to make some cash by selling the name of the terminal, says a spokesman. The McNamara Terminal was named after former county executive Edward H. McNamara, who helped get the project approved for Northwest. However, if the authority is successful, the new terminal could be the first in North America to be paid for a name. “There’s another airport in Winnipeg that announced after we did that they are looking for naming rights, but we were the first,” the spokesman tells GlobeSt.com. “We’re willing to open up discussions on anything in the terminal, I like to joke about having ‘Rolex’ clocks. We want to generate revenue sources for the airlines to help keep their costs of operation low, to increase their desire to serve the area.”

Another change will be the concessions. The new terminal has 50,000 sf of retail space, double that of the previous terminals, though 9,000 sf is still vacant. The spokesman says instead of signing an exclusive contract with one concessionaire, the authority is leasing out spaces in small bunches. “We want to give travelers more choices, so it’s not just one brand of coffee, for example,” he says. The terminal will also have the first Sports Illustrated and USA Today newsstand stores.

Not everything is finished. Two gates are still being built, and a new $28.7 million Ground Transportation Center is under construction, expected to debut in late October. Also, the Berry Terminal will be fully demolished, but the Smith Terminal will remain open as offices for the authority. The spokesman tells GlobeSt.com that a new office building will be constructed, but plans have not progressed far. “One thing at a time. We’ll let the customers have the new building first,” he says.

Some have expressed concerns at how prudent it is to open a new terminal when the Detroit area is struggling under an economic slowdown. Authority officials agree that conditions may decrease demand, but point to passenger traffic for the first six months, which set an all-time record for the airport, about 18.5 million passengers. “Our data analysts are quite convinced that airline schedule reductions and increased fares and other charges will dampen passenger demand in the fourth quarter,” said authority CEO Lester Robinson in a statement. “But in the meantime, passenger activity is still strong, here in Detroit, and clearly out-pacing any year in our history.” The authority is already considering a fifth runway for the airport, with the requirement for 1,000 acres of adjacent land.

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