The multimillion-dollar renovation of the Louisville International Airport will be completed by early 2017, but much of the work has already wrapped up.

Louisville Regional Airport Authority officials, who oversee the airport, let Insider Louisville come in to take pictures and talk about the changes airport visitors are seeing, including new dining and retail options.

“We are upping our game,” said Natalie Chaudoin, director of public relations for the Louisville Regional Airport Authority, noting that the work did not include an expansion of the airport’s footprint.

Some of the renovations include whole new concepts, such as the Southern restaurant Book & Bourbon, and other changes involved simply redesigning shops or eateries to feature Louisville-specific elements. For example, Chili’s already operated in Terminal B, but the restaurant was renovated and its decor now includes bourbon barrels on the wall, Louisville Slugger bats built into bar seating and a large Kentucky Derby decal.

The Louisville Regional Airport Authority this year signed eight-year contracts with HMS Host to manage the food and beverage concessions and The Paradies Shops to run the retail stores. Together, the companies have invested more than $8 million in the renovation, Chaudoin said. The authority also contributed $9.5 million to the project.

Redoing all the shops, restaurant and other amenities at the same time was important, she said. “Everything has a nice unified look to it; it all kind of blends together.”

While most of the businesses in the airport are up and running, still to come is a Brooks Brothers store, a new concept called Starbucks Evenings, Coals Artisan Pizza, Bourbon Academy Tasting Room and The Finish Line, a gift and news store. All are expected to open sometime in early 2017.

Chaudoin said she could not comment on whether the renovations could attract new flights or airlines to Louisville International Airport.

“I do not work with them close enough to say,” she said of the air service side of the business, adding that the airport wants to put its best foot forward when welcoming or sending off visitors and locals. “If people have positive experiences, they’re going to continue to want to fly in and out of Louisville.”

The changes have been getting rave reviews from visitors, according to Chaudoin.

“We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback, a lot of people especially those coming home for the holidays, hadn’t been here in a while. They were very excited to see it,” she said. “People were pleased that they still had amenities to go to.”

For example, Chaudoin added, visitors have said they are happy Starbucks set up a temporary kiosk to serve fliers after they get through security. As mentioned above, that Starbucks location within the airport is still under construction.

“It can be a very frustrating time to go into an airport when it is all under construction, but we feel like we did a really good job keeping people informed,” she said. “We had regular updates on our website throughout the process.”

The airport did experience a power failure the Wednesday morning before Thanksgiving, but Chaudoin said she didn’t know if it was tied to the renovations.

“I have not heard what the full-on technical issue was, what the cause of it was,” she said.

With renovations nearly complete, Chaudoin said the airport authority doesn’t expect the work to impact travel around the Christmas holiday or New Year’s Day.

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Caitlin Bowling
Louisville native Caitlin Bowling has covered the local restaurant and retail scene since 2014. After graduating from the Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Caitlin got her start at a newspaper in the mountains of North Carolina where she won multiple state awards for her reporting. Since returning to Louisville, she’s written for Business First and Insider Louisville, winning awards for health and business reporting and becoming a go-to source for business news. In addition to restaurants and retail business, Caitlin covers real estate, economic development and tourism. Email Caitlin at [email protected]