The Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport unveiled its new logo in honor of the former world heavyweight boxing champion on Thursday.
The airport’s new namesake will now be officially incorporated into the branding of the facility, as an outline of Ali’s arms raised in victory sits atop the new name. Mayor Greg Fischer and Lonnie Ali, Muhammad Ali’s widow, were on hand at the airport Thursday morning for the unveiling.
“When you think about an airport, the true purpose of an airport is to foster human connection, to bring us together, to connect our people of our city to the world, and to the citizens of the world to our city,” Fischer said. “Think about Muhammad as a great example of that.”
The logo change is one of many upcoming alterations being made to the airport. Thursday also marked the unveiling of renderings of some architectural changes to the airport, which will also heavily feature Ali and the new logo.
“Louisville is Muhammad’s city,” Lonnie Ali said at the unveiling. “And now the main national and international portal to this city bears his name. And as Muhammad would certainly declare if he were here … he would say that the Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport is the greatest airport in the world.”
To help celebrate, Louisville Tourism has paid for a national full-page ad of Ali in Friday’s edition of USA Today.
These visual upgrades are part of new design projects that the airport is hoping will improve the first impression of the facility, according to Dan Mann, executive director of Louisville Muhammad Ali International.
“I’m really looking forward to the time where we can get into the designing of that, and get to where it’s going to be super impactful,” Mann said. “All these things are impactful, but visually that part of it is really going to kind of be a game changer for the first impression that we make as an airport.”
The airport’s name change was approved on Jan. 16, but a logo reflecting the new name had yet to be unveiled.
With expected growth of around 10% each year, the airport is also looking to update or alter mechanical systems, restrooms, moving walkways, elevators, escalators, the terminal’s exterior, the airport’s landscaping and the rental car area. All 24 jet bridges will also be replaced.
All of these renovations will total around $200 million in expenses, Mann said. Most of these projects are currently in the concept stage, Mann said, but one project that’s ahead of the others is moving the rental car hub.
That project will include moving the hub from its current open-air location to the first floor of the parking garage, giving it cover and allowing for new amenities to be used by the rental car companies.
Travelers currently pick up their rental cars outside at an exposed, uncovered lot after checking in at a kiosk inside the airport.
“When you come into town — first impression — you want to be covered, you want to have the executive elite status where you can just pick any car in the lot and drive,” Mann said. “This relocation will bring all those best and greatest customer service enhancements.”
The project will involve reconfiguring the lower level of the garage, improving the access to the garage for people not using the rental cars, relocating roadways and moving and adding signage. To still accommodate flyers, the cellphone and rideshare (Uber, Lyft) lot will be moved to the other side of the airport, by the post office. Credit card lots and surface parking will also be expanded.
All-in-all, this particular project will cost $18-20 million, according to Mann. The airport is looking to move the rental cars by June 2020.
The airport has also secured $15 million in funding for jet bridge replacements, Mann said. There are 24 jet bridges to replace, which will take four to five years.
One of the more important projects that the airport is hoping to carry out during the renovation process is expanding TSA security lines. The airport currently operates with five lines, and Mann would like to expand that to six or seven.
He’d also like to implement more efficient TSA technology, which would allow automated bin carrying and consolidated bag inspections. This technology is being used at other airports and is often provided by Vanderlande.
“This technology works better for everybody,” Mann said.
The repairs and upgrades to the airport’s moving walkways, escalators and elevators will cost around $15 million, Mann said.
Another major change is looking to expand the offering of flights. Louisville Muhammad Ali International is currently looking to add an international port of entry, which would allow for international commercial flights. This is a focus on what customers want, Mann said.
“What does the customer want? Having international flights out of our airport is going to be very exciting,” he said.
In addition, the airport is looking at adding direct flights to marquee cities in North America. Boston is at the top of the list.
“It’s a strong business demand,” Mann said. “I think from our business community standpoint, having Boston service is a priority, and obviously it’s a priority for us if it’s a priority for the business community, so we’re really working hard on that.”
Toronto, San Francisco and Seattle are also major cities that Louisville would like to add direct flights to in the near future, but Boston is the focus, Mann said.
The timetable for the renovations as a whole is five to eight years, and the projects are part of what the airport has coined “SDF Next,” as it looks to continue to improve its airport to meet the increase in use and business.
Concept designs below show what the airports hopes to make the terminal look like.
Correction: This story has been updated to say that Louisville Tourism paid for the national full page ad of Ali. The story previously stated that the Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport paid for the ad.