Hillsborough County Aviation Authority (Tampa International Airport)


Tampa, FL




Architecture, Interior Design, Experiential Design & Wayfinding


2019 ACEC Honor Award; 2019 Associated Builders and Contractors Florida Gulf Coast Chapter Project of the Year,

2019 ACEC Florida Engineering Excellence Award

2019 IIDA Central Florida Design Award

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Tampa International Airport’s (TPA) existing rental car facilities were at capacity for current operations and the associated vehicular traffic was contributing to significant congestion at the airport’s roadways and curbsides. Needing room to grow while maintaining the high level of customer service TPA is known for, Hillsborough County Aviation Authority turned to Gresham Smith for answers. As part of a design-build team including Austin Constructors, LLC, we led the design of an off-site Rental Car Center (RCC) as well as an automated people mover (APM) to link the RCC to the Main Terminal byway of the airport’s Economy Parking garage. Elevating the passenger experience, our innovative solution helps decongest TPA’s roadways and curbsides while providing enhanced connectivity and capacity for future growth.

square-foot off-site rental car center
mile SkyConnect automated people mover
vehicles removed from the curbside anually
the interior of the rental car center at Tampa International Airport

Consolidating Rental Car Operations for Better Service

Modern and bright, the new Rental Car Center sets the tone for the first phase of TPA’s three-phase Airport Master Plan. Opened to the public in 2018, the off-site facility has storage space for more than 8,600 vehicles and can process up to 3,200 vehicles per hour. Moving congestion away from the Main Terminal, the RCC doubles the number of on-site rental car brands, meaning more convenience and more choice for travelers as well as a substantial increase in revenue for the client.

people using the remote bag check kiosks at Tampa International Airport

Print, Drop off & Ride!

The Rental Car Center also houses a new remote bag check that supports multiple airline carriers. The amenity allows customers to return their vehicle at the RCC, print their bag tag, drop their bag off at the counter, and then ride the APM directly to the Main Terminal without the burden of carrying their bags on the train and then to the ticketing counter at the Main Terminal. This free service has had an immediate positive impact on the volume of bags checked at the Main Terminal, further reducing stress on existing operations.

the SkyConnect automated people mover at Tampa International Airport

One Less Headache for Travelers

The RCC is connected to the Main Terminal and the 11,000-space Economy Parking garage via the SkyConnect—a 1.5-mile automated people mover that replaces the Economy Parking shuttle bus operation, which previously operated 24/7 and contributed to the Main Terminal’s overburdened curbsides. In roughly four and a half minutes, a customer can travel on the SkyConnect from the RCC and Economy Parking garage to the Main Terminal without the headache of curbside congestion. The RCC also features a remote curbside, which services public buses, providing the community and airport staff an additional, convenient way to get to TPA.

people waiting for the SkyConnect automated people mover in the station at Tampa International Airport

Sleek & Modern

Sleek and modern finishes are carried continuously throughout the buildings, incorporating a unique color language that pays homage to the Tampa Bay region while creating continuity with the airport’s Main Terminal. The direction of the woodgrain ceilings offsets the length of the APM stations while adding a touch of warmth to cooler color tones. Our signage program also complements the Main Terminal building, while intuitive wayfinding maintains simple and clear circulation flows.

people riding up escalators and admiring a large tapestry on the wall at Tampa International Airport

Art for Art’s Sake

Our interior designers coordinated five commissioned art installations as part of TPA’s community art program. Featured in public circulation spaces, the installations also draw influence from the Tampa Bay region, including a dramatic hanging sculpture of a sea turtle, which appears to be gliding through the air followed by a thousand hatchling sculptures suspended above.

people riding up two-story escalators at Tampa International Airport

Laying a Foundation for the Future

Extending the life of TPA’s main terminal by removing an estimated 3.8 million vehicles from the curbsides annually, the new Rental Car Center and SkyConnect APM lay the foundation for the airport’s future, including the planned SkyCenter. Taking off soon, this world-class space will feature hotels, retail establishments, parking and office space. Gresham Smith will remain onboard for this next phase of the Airport Master Plan, providing design services for the atrium that connects the station to the SkyCenter, as well as the airport authority’s administrative offices, which will move into the new SkyCenter.