The Kiwanis Club of Longboat Key invited Rick Piccolo, president and CEO of the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport, to speak at its bimonthly meeting. The breakfast was at the Lazy Lobster on Feb. 1.
Commissioner Gary Coffin kicked things off, reminding everyone of the importance of filling out the Citizen’s Satisfaction Survey by Feb. 10 that was mailed to each Longboat resident.
Piccolo began his presentation by explaining the growth of SRQ airport in previous years. It is the fastest growing airport in the country, he said.
The number of passengers has grown from 1.3 million to 4.3 million passengers over the past few years. In 2018, there were six airlines to 12 nonstop destinations. Now, SRQ has 11 airlines to 53 nonstop destinations which allows passengers to travel to most destinations through the major hub airports, according to Piccolo.
“I'm very proud of the way we perform financially,” said Piccolo. “We are one of the few airports in this country right now that has no debt. We are building this $200 million worth of improvements without taking on any debt.”
Future projects for SRQ include new concessions and shops such as Anna Maria Oyster Bar, Shops at Siesta Key, the Salty Key, Motorworks Brewing, and more. SRQ will also have a new cellphone lot with 124 spots, more escalators and a consolidated baggage system. The biggest project is the new ground-level boarding terminal. This will have five gates that will be taken by Allegiant Air.
Piccolo opened the discussion for questions after he finished his presentation. Club members asked about topics such as the possibility of getting flights abroad, advanced technology and if there was adequate property space for the airport to keep expanding.
Piccolo explained that the current growth in Sarasota and Manatee county has fueled the projects and the airport has a master plan for its continued improvement including adding more international flights and going vertical to preserve property space in future expansions.
Former Kiwanis President Michael Garey ended the Q&A by asking Piccolo about how long he thinks he wants to continue working at SRQ. Piccolo said that he plans to stay as CEO for around 18 more months to see the projects completed. He also shared that he is looking forward to retiring after putting years of hard work into the airports he has worked for.
Petra Rivera is the Longboat community reporter. She holds a bachelor’s degree of journalism with an emphasis on reporting and writing from the University of Missouri. Previously, she was a food and drink writer for Vox magazine as well as a reporter for the Columbia Missourian.