08/25/2011The new $20 million concourse at XNA Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport in Highfill, celebrated its grand opening on Wednesday prior to becoming operational for the public on September 1st. The new 54,192-squarefoot concourse has 11 gates for regional jets and room for a 12th gate. It also has Arkansas’ first moving sidewalk. Technology has been emphasized throughout, with Passenger Work stations including wireless Internet access, as one example of the terminal’s special features. Materials used were chosen to reflect Northwest Arkansas’ natural beauty, with pebbles in the patterned concrete of the floor and earthy accent colors. The concourse also showcases Arkansas culture through displays of artwork and artifacts. Specialized lighting at varying heights is intended to represent the night sky. The new concourse will eventually include a restaurant and bar with seating for 80. The Airport held a late afternoon grand opening, where U.S. Sen. John Boozman spoke to a crowd of about 400. He addressed the challenges of the airport from its planning stages in 1998 to the present. “With a lot of hard work, with very humble beginnings, with a lot of skepticism, this has grown to be the second largest airport in the state. It got off with a rocky start. It got off with a lot of people taking a chance” Boozeman said. More than 1 million passengers are expected to travel through the airport in 2011; with six airlines and 51 flights to 16 destinations coast to coast, said Scott Van Laningham, airport executive director. “Today, I think you will agree we have a real airport,” Airport Authority Board Chairman Philip Taldo told the crowd. The new concourse will also help accommodate crowds coming to see the new Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, scheduled to open Nov. 11 in Bentonville. “This will truly be an international destination,” said Boozman. Former U.S. Rep. John Paul Hammerschmidt of Harrison also commented on the new concourse. “It’s a stupendous addition to our airport and our dreams from the early days.” The new concourse addition was designed by Gresham Smith & Partners Architects. WD&D served as the Associated Architects for the Construction Phases. CDI Construction acted as the General Contractor for the project.