Yesterday, the city council approved an open bidding process for concessions at Love Field Airport. The process also gives current concessionaires the right of first refusal on 27% of vendor space in the new terminal as incentive to stay through the construction period.
Although I typically don’t like to vote on matters that are briefed the same day, it became clear that another week would not bring greater insight or agreement.
This vote concluded months of discourse on an issue affecting the future of one of Dallas’ largest assets. As the Wright Amendment is lifted and the city begins to invest more than $1 billion in a new terminal and other airport improvements, it is critical that we make the most of Love Field’s transformation. That means planning for a terminal that provides the best airport experience for passengers, with a wide range of shops and quality restaurants. Attracting the best mix of retailers and food and beverage vendors requires an open, transparent, and competitive bid process, and the council accomplished that on Wednesday.
Is this resolution perfect? No. There are some who would argue that there should be no “right of first refusal” option for current concessionaires. Others would say the current concessionaires deserve a contract extension for space in the new terminal. But the council’s decision balanced what I believe to be the two most important considerations: ensuring a great customer experience in the new terminal when it opens as well as in the old terminal during construction.
Without some incentives to the current concessionaires, the airport might be hard-pressed to find vendors willing to stay in the old terminal space during the construction period, when there will be fewer passengers/customers and a challenging airport configuration. On the other hand, guaranteeing new terminal space to current concessionaires could reduce the breadth of competitive bidding, a process that provides the greatest likelihood of getting the best vendors for Love Field.
The plan approved yesterday strikes the right balance. For this reason, I moved to approve this proposal. It passed with a vote of 11-4.