Even as Denver International Airport pushes forward with itsSouth Terminal expansion
, it's updating parts of the airport that were outdated almost from the day DIA opened in 1995. The toll booths on Pena Boulevard proved a real bottleneck; they were moved closer to the parking garages, and the area to the side turned into a cell-phone waiting lot. And last week, DIA finally replaced that space withFinal Approach
, the newcell-phone parking lot
by the Conoco off Pena Boulevard -- complete with indoor bathrooms.
Final Approach also boasts a children's area, video screens with flight information, four food court vendors, and even a 24-7 Dunkin' Donuts drive-through. But sadly, those bathrooms aren't 24-7.
The city approved Final Approach in March 2012; Pacific Convenience and Fuels, which runs the nearby Conoco gas station, convenience store, car wash and Wendy's, invested about $4.5 million on the waiting-area project; its first year of sales is projected at $2.8 million. DIA will receive 15 percent of the food court gross sales, while the city's sales tax take is estimated at $112,000 per year. "Denver International Airport continuously strives to offer world-class amenities for its customers," Chief Commercial Officer John Ackerman told council members when the plan was presented. "It also makes good business sense to place the 45-minute waiting area near modern amenities."
But those modern amenities aren't available round-the-clock, as drivers are now discovering.
There's no shortage of signage pointing drivers to the new cell-phone lot, which has plenty of parking and outdoor seating, and the indoor waiting lobby at Final Approach is indeed a modern, shining facility. At 10 p.m. on Friday, it was brightly lit, beckoning those drivers to come in and set a spell while they waited for the call from their passengers. Just one problem: The doors were locked.
Aside from that 24-hour Dunkin' Donuts drive-thru, the food court is only open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. -- and when those operators end service, it turns out the entire lobby is locked, if still lit. So drivers can't get to those fancy flight-info screens, can't get to the bathrooms.
There's no sign on the door to indicate hours, no indication of where a driver might go for some relief. I watched a dozen people make that sad discovery as I sat in the lot for an hour Friday night, waiting for a call from a late JetBlue flight.
Finally, one frustrated fellow decided to use the side of the Final Approach building for his final relief.
At least the old lot had porta-potties, even if it lacked all those modern amenities you can only gaze at through glass from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. But there is an option. "The restrooms are open at the Conoco 24/7," says DIA spokesman Heath Montgomery. "We have limited traffic overnight generally."
Tell that to the folks waiting Friday night. Bring back the portapotties.
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From the Calhoun: Wake Up Call archive: "Mustang, aka Blucifer, marks fifth birthday with debate about its fate at DIA."