$87M Sunport renovation underway as officials prep for Balloon Fiesta rush

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — With the annular solar eclipse happening during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, Sunport reps expect 30% more travelers for this year’s fiesta compared to last year.

At the Sunport, an $87 million renovation project is currently underway.

“We want the travelers to know there’s something coming, but we don’t want to disrupt them while we’re back here doing the work,” said Shad James, president of Jaynes Corporation, the company doing the construction.

James gave KOB 4 a behind-the-scenes look at the new TSA area, which is about 13,600 square feet – 50% bigger than the current TSA area. There are also higher ceilings, too.

Sunport reps hoped this space would be finished before Balloon Fiesta, but they want to make sure they get it right.

“We’re going to see major upticks in Balloon Fiesta traffic so to try to roll out the new TSA right before that, we said we better err on the side of caution and do it a little bit further out in the middle of November,” said Manny Manriquez, innovation and commercial development manager for the city of Albuquerque’s Aviation Department.

From September to October, airlines are opening up 100,000 more seats for travelers. The demand is even higher for this year’s Balloon Fiesta since it pairs with the annular eclipse.

Despite the construction, Sunport reps say they’re ready.

“The signage is clear, we’ve got volunteers on hand, security personnel on hand, and aviation staff to help make sure the passengers understand the change of flow and what they’re encountering when they get here,” Manriquez said.

Even though travelers may have to “pardon the dust” right now, it will all be worth it.

“It might feel like an inconvenience but when we get to the other side we really got an enhanced customer experience,” Manriquez said. “We get people through the security process sooner and get them to the other side, where they can relax and enjoy food and beverage, enjoy the retail experience.”