Dallas city leaders are showing off their new airport terminal while still facing controversy over who will operate the concessions there.
Thursday, the city offered reporters and photographers a picture taking tour of the improved Love Field terminal under construction.
The terminal includes about three times more concession space for passenger shopping and food.
Completion of the terminal is due in 2014 to coincide with the end of long haul flight restrictions on Love Field.
"The modernization is meant to give us a brand new terminal, make it easier, more efficient, and provide better amenities," said Acting Dallas Aviation Director Mark Deubner. "We do plan on in increases in passenger traffic. We think we’ve designed a great building and we think it will be up to the task."
A plan to give another 12 years of concession business to the existing Love Field vendors was rejected by a sharply divided Dallas City Council two years ago, despite accusations of racism from the minority owned business leaders.
Instead, the city opened the airport concessions to competitive bids.
But Thursday, the existing vendors participated in a lottery that gives them the right of first refusal to match bids on 27 percent of the new concession space.
Fred Conwright, a co-owner of Two Podners barbecue restaurant near Fair Park and a concessionaire at DFW airport, said the City of Dallas a lottery for existing vendors was extremely unusual.
"This has never been done in the public sector at any airport before," Conwright said.
Duebner said the lottery was an incentive to keep existing vendors in place at Love Field during the construction period when business could fall off.
"If they stuck with us during the construction phase, we would give them the right of first refusal for 27 percent of the new spaces," Deubner said.
Conwright said he submitted bids for new space at Love Field, but if an existing vendor drew that same space in the lottery, they can match his competing bid and take the space.
"At least I get a chance this time. It’s a little chance. Better than before. I had no chance," Conwright said.
Existing vendors have 30 days to make their decisions.
Part of the new Love Field lobby opens next week and TSA security screening will move there. A new ticket area opens in November. Eleven of the 20 new gates are due to open in 2013.