Adam McCoyAdam McCoyNovember 27, 20173min704

You’d be hard-pressed to find a public place that welcomes smokers nowadays in Denver. The city has even recently moved to ban smoking and vaping along the 16th Street Mall.

However, like a relic from another era, Denver International Airport still has a dedicated indoor space, the Smokin’ Bear Lodge Smoking Lounge on concourse C, where passengers can light up before their flight.

Three DIA smoking lounges have already closed, and the Smokin’ Bear space will shutter when its lease expires in 2018, according to the Denver Business Journal, but DIA still landed on a health list that some call the smoky list, compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC study looked at the smoking policy of the 50 busiest airports in the world, and Denver was one of just three in the U.S. (and 27 worldwide) without a smoke-free facility. McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas and Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta were the other two U.S. airports to join DIA as smoking facilities.

To be considered a smoke-free airport, a facility must “completely prohibit smoking in all indoor areas,” the study said. Even though smokers are separated, in designated or ventilated smoking areas, from non-smokers, “studies have documented that secondhand smoke can transfer from designated smoking areas into nonsmoking areas in airports, where nonsmoking travelers and employees can be exposed,” the study read.

“In addition to subjecting nonsmoking travelers who pass through these areas to involuntary secondhand smoke exposure, designated or ventilated smoking areas can also result in involuntary exposure of airport employees who are required to enter these areas or work near them,” the study said.

“Smoke-free policies substantially improve indoor air quality and reduce secondhand smoke exposure among nonsmokers.”

DIA has plans to eventually become a smoke-free facility, the Denver Business Journal reports.


Adam McCoyAdam McCoyNovember 16, 20172min527

Denver International Airport will grow to address surging passenger traffic after city officials approved a $1.5 billion gate-expansion project earlier this week.

The Denver City Council OK’d a series of design and construction contracts associated with the project Monday night. The 39-gate expansion across the airport’s three concourses is expected to be complete by 2021.

“I think people should know that Denver is growing and that means that their airport has to grow at the same time,” DIA spokesperson Heath Montgomery told Denver7.

DIA officials say the airport must expand to meet climbing passenger traffic. When the airport first opened more than two decades ago, it was designed to accommodate 50 million passengers a year. But DIA passenger traffic has perpetually swelled, exceeding airport capacity last year. The airport set a passenger traffic record last year with 58.3 million traveling through its gates last year.

The new gate expansion is akin to another project recently approved by the city. The $1.8 billion Great Hall Project will overhaul security screening checkpoints and concessions and boost the Jeppesen terminal’s capacity to 80 million passengers a year. Through a 34-year, private-public partnership with Spanish transportation infrastructure behemoth Ferrovial, the project was controversial, in part, because of the City Council’s loss of oversight of new concessions.

DIA’s concourses were initially designed to allow for growth and additional gates, according to the airport. In 2014, five new gates were completed on DIA’s C concourse in a $46 million expansion project to bring the airport’s current gate count to 107.


Adam McCoyAdam McCoyOctober 30, 20173min706

Denver International Airport has outgrown its 107 gates, officials argue.

DIA set passenger traffic records last year – 58.3 million traveled through the airport’s gates last year. To bridge that surging traffic, airport officials have proposed a nearly $1.5 billion project to add 39 gates across DIA’s three concourses, the Denver Business Journal reports.

Denver’s Business, Arts, Workforce and Aeronautical Services Committee is slated to review four five-year contracts Wednesday afternoon. The contracts would cover design and construction of the new passenger gates. If OK’d in committee, the contracts could be considered by the full City Council by mid-November. Airport officials hope to have the gates completed by 2021.

DIA officials argue the airport must expand to meet climbing passenger traffic. Airport leaders had previously noted plans to add anywhere from 26 to 56 new gates, according to the Business Journal.

When the airport first opened more than two decades ago, it was designed to accommodate 50 million passengers a year. But DIA passenger traffic has perpetually swelled, exceeding airport capacity last year.

Denver officials recently approved the $1.8 billion Great Hall Project to overhaul security screening checkpoints and concessions and boost the Jeppesen terminal’s capacity to 80 million passengers a year. Through a 34-year, private-public partnership with Spanish transportation infrastructure behemoth Ferrovial, the project was controversial, in part, because of the City Council’s loss of oversight of new concessions.

On Wednesday, the Denver committee will consider a $700 million contract with joint venture Turner-Flatiron and a $655 million contract with joint venture Holder-FCI for pre-construction and construction management, and two $65 million design and engineering contracts with HNTB Corporation and Jacobs Engineering Group, according to city documents.

DIA’s concourses were initially designed to allow for growth and additional gates, according to the airport. In 2014, five new gates were completed on DIA’s C concourse in a $46 million expansion project.


Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirOctober 27, 20173min492

If only the IRS were so considerate: Denver Auditor Timothy O’Brien gave fair warning this week as to what areas of Denver government he will train his sights on next. His office has released his 2018 Audit Plan, which provides an extensive overview of the different agencies, services and activities O’Brien and his staff will scrutinize in the coming year.

Included in the lineup, according to a press release from the auditor’s office : “Use-of-force policies in public safety, airport financial management practices, homeless policies, property tax processes and Denver’s cybersecurity.”

Here’s more detail on some of the areas of inquiry:

Included in the plan is a second look at the oversight and use of mill levy funds by Rocky Mountain Human Services, Denver’s community centered board designed by the state to help individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The 2018 Audit Plan includes a possibility of reviewing Denver Human Services’ oversight and monitoring of public funds, as well as the impact of state regulations that will change the way all community centered boards operate.

The Auditor also plans to take a close look at Denver’s airport operations. Audit plans include airport security and coordination practices, financial and administration management and revenue-sharing with the Westin Denver International Airport Hotel. Many community members have expressed concern and Auditor O’Brien plans to exercise his ability to audit the airport to make sure the organization is using tax dollars effectively.

Additionally, Auditor O’Brien plans to look into homeless services in Denver. The audit might include an analysis of the effects of certain social policies and might also assess the resources dedicated to addressing homelessness and the collaboration among agencies citywide.

How does O’Brien decide who goes under the microscope? The press announcement says he “considered input about the city’s risks from a wide range of sources and people.”

Get all the details by browsing the audit plan; here’s the link again.


Adam McCoyAdam McCoyOctober 20, 20173min3433

The white tents dotting the terminal. The raging mustang with seemingly glowing red eyes. And, now, a massive electronic welcome sign greeting drivers entering and leaving the airport highlight the list of iconic symbols associated with the Denver International Airport.

The new, already-installed sign includes a 1,000-foot stretch of LED-light poles and screens forming a spectrum of moving light in the median of Peña Blvd., the Denver Post notes.

It’s a unique first impression for airport visitors, officials say, and something the airport has been lacking, airport spokesperson Heath Montgomery told CBS4.

The sign is impressive to look at, but it is the cost that’s raising eyebrows.

DIA was to share the $14 million cost — as well as revenue from ads displayed on the sign — with Panasonic, but the Denver City Council voted Monday to amend the contract. The city will now foot $11.5 million in costs, instead of $7 million, for the sign.

Since Peña Blvd. falls under federal restrictions, DIA is limited in its advertising options and that throws a wrench into the agreement, CBS4 explains.

“That National Highway System designation means we are limited to the type of advertising we can do on those signs to what’s called ‘On-premises advertising’ or things that are at the airport,” Montgomery said.

The Department of Transportation says the roadway has been designated as such since the early 2000s, but Montgomery says it was surprise to them.

Under the amendment, DIA will retain all of the ad revenue. Panasonic will still be responsible for above ground construction, content management and operations and maintenance according to the city. The airport is working with lawmakers to remedy to highway designation issue.


Joey BunchJoey BunchOctober 19, 20175min281
Airport workers are wrapping safety and jobs in a bundle in a union push regarding airlines and contractors at Denver International Airport. A University of California-Berkeley white paper released Wednesday by Service Employees International Union Local 105 assailed the cost of awarding airport contracts to low-paying employers with high turnover. The report found that fewer […]

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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyAugust 21, 20174min929

If you get bit by the gambling bug and want to deposit some of your hard-earned cash in the slots or try your luck at roulette or blackjack, you’d have to leave the Denver-metro area for someplace like Blackhawk or Central City.

That’s by design, as Coloradans have said no to gaming expansion on the Front Range. Yet, when the folks over at the Colorado Gaming Association heard news about a possible entertainment district coming to the outskirts of Aurora, they still reached out for assurances it wouldn’t include gambling, the Aurora Sentinel reports.

The district could include a NASCAR-style racetrack, restaurants and nightlife, but a casino is not on that list. As the Sentinel’s Kara Mason notes:

Colorado’s current casino owners are excruciatingly protective of their turf, saying that any metro expansion of gaming would critically affect the state’s mountain gaming communities.

“Over time there has been proposals to put a casino in the vicinity of Denver International Airport. I believe the thought was that by putting a casino close to the airport there would be the possibility of tourists who would fly in, go to the casino and they’d be captured on that site and never make it to Aurora or Denver,” said Mark Grueskin, the CGA’s legal counsel.

When CGA approached the city about the possibility of a casino in the entertainment district, Grueskin said the city ensured that gambling was not any part of their intent.

CGA is working with the city on an ordinance that would ban limited gaming operations in the city, Mason reports.

A 1999 city charter amendment, barring public funding for motor sport projects, has dogged Aurora’s ambitions for the entertainment district and racetrack for years. The city decided in June to seek voter approval through a ballot initiative to roll back the amendment and recently cleared an early hurdle, winning a court challenge to the ballot question.

History is not on Aurora’s side however, with the city twice unsuccessfully asking voters to strike the amendment.



Adam McCoyAdam McCoyAugust 13, 20178min639

As the 22-year-old Denver International Airport outgrows its dated design, it must undergo a modernization of sorts, principally to address security vulnerabilities like long lines at security checkpoints.

That’s airport officials’ contention in touting a stout, complex $1.8 billion, 34-year public-private partnership with a consortium of companies led by Spanish transportation infrastructure behemoth Ferrovial.

The Great Hall Project will help one of Colorado’s major transportation hubs adapt to the evolving nature of air travel, airport executives say.

“You do not use terminals today like you did in 1995,” DIA CEO Kim Day said during a Denver committee meeting last month.

It would chiefly address security issues at screening points through $650 million in renovations. The proposed four-year overhaul would move security screening from level 5 to the sixth floor alongside ticketing; resolve the awkward flow of passenger traffic; triple the space for new concessions on level 5; and add new technology improving efficiency at security checkpoints and check-in areas among other additions, airport executives say.

And with DIA passenger traffic swelling to 58.3 million last year and the airport on pace to set a new passenger record by year’s end, the renovations would address perpetual growth at the airport, boosting capacity in the Jeppesen terminal to 80 million passengers per year.

“We are exceeding the design capacity of the terminal and we will not be able to accommodate the growth that our airlines are projecting,” Day said of not moving forward with the renovations.

Much of the Denver City Council appears poised to OK the partnership, and local construction leaders are giddy over the potential for new work in the city, but the 15,000-page pact has drawn the critical eye of airlines, labor unions, community members and City Council members including Deborah Ortega and Rafael Espinoza.

Both have said they’re uneasy about the lose of oversight detailed in the contract regarding concessions, with the consortium taking over management control of new concessions for three decades under the agreement, and wary of what they characterize as inadequate time to weigh the agreement before a vote. Ortega and Espinoza co-authored a letter requesting a vote postponement of 120 days to afford more time to study the pact.

But the clock is ticking on the City Council. Though the city would retain all the design and other work done to this point, it would be on the hook for a $9 million penalty paid to the partners if the agreement isn’t approved by Sept. 1.

Nonetheless, the City Council could vote on the deal as early as Aug. 14.

“If DIA wants my vote (on Aug. 14), I’ll need more time,” Espinoza told Colorado Politics. “DIA likely feels comfortable it has the requisite number of votes. But I’m making it clear. I am not comfortable moving forward. I need more time with the contract.”

The numbers

Under the agreement, DIA will be on the hook for as much as $1.8 billion. DIA CFO Gisela Shanahan said the airport will contribute $480 million toward the renovations via progress payments over the four years of construction, and allocate an additional $120 million in contingency funds.

Over the remaining 30 years of the agreement, DIA could pay up to $1.2 billion in reimbursement payments to the Ferrovial partners for concessions operations and maintenance costs and financing costs.

Meanwhile, the consortium partners — Ferrovial, Saunders Concessions and MJE/Loop Capital — will invest $378 million over the life of the deal through cash, debt and other means. The partners do expect a return on their investment of 10.8 percent.

Ferrovial will design and construct the renovations and assume the risk for any cost overruns or delays on the project. While Ferrovial will operate new concessions, Denver will split revenues taking 80 percent to 20 percent and retain control of concessions on DIA’s three concourses.

Officials say the airport could go it alone in financing the project for a lower price tag, but the partnership shields DIA from some of the risks associated with the project.

‘Paying a premium’

While he acknowledges the built-in protections in the public-private partnership, Espinoza said DIA is paying a premium for those benefits. He’d rather take the work already done, have the airport go it alone and finance the project at a lower cost. Considering the length of the agreement and the Ferrovial consortium taking management control of new concessions, he said it appears the deal is designed to circumvent the Council.

Other City Council members like Christopher Herndon have expressed support for the agreement, but Espinoza said he needs more time to see what other Council members see in the pact.

“This is a lot for me to digest in a very limited amount of time,” he said during a July 26 committee meeting on the project.

Councilwoman Deborah Ortega has also been outspoken on the project arguing she isn’t comfortable with the City Council’s loss of oversight for concession contracts. In a letter advocating for an 120-extension, she said there are unanswered questions.

“Mayor Hancock and DIA should pursue a 120-day extension to provide Council time to fully review a contract it took three years to develop,” Ortega and Espinoza wrote. “It would also provide time for the DIA team to work with our partner airlines that will incur a 28 percent increase in fees to provide concession space in the main hall.”

Local labor union leaders have expressed anxiety over protections for airport workers and airlines like United, Frontier and Southwest say they back renovating the airport, but are concerned about the operational and financial feasibility of the project.

United Airlines President Scott Kirby said level 6 is already crowded and the renovations would leave little room for travelers. And estimates place DIA wait times on an average day at 82 minutes Kirby said.

“That’s the root of our concern,” he said. “If you’re going to do something like that, people won’t come to Denver. We are really concerned that we harm the airport and the local economy by doing this.”

If approved, DIA construction could start next summer in “discrete phases” as to avoid disrupting travel through the Mile High City.