FORT WAYNE — Architects will be drawing up plans this year to grow Fort Wayne International Airport’s terminal building 20 percent for its first major expansion in more than 20 years.

It was 1996 when 45,000 square feet were added to what was at the time a 77,000-square-foot terminal building south of West Ferguson Road in the facility’s last major expansion.

This year airport officials will hire architects to draw up blueprints for the renovation of 30,000 square feet at the facility and the addition of 25,000 square feet, working from a Terminal Area Concept Plan completed in 2017.

The project’s design will be done this year with construction scheduled for next year. The changes will take place on the first and second floors of the terminal, said Scott Hinderman, executive director of airports for the Fort Wayne-Allen County Airport Authority.

The floor-level expansion includes extra circulation around the airline ticket counters and a new outbound baggage system, he said. The upper level will have expanded holding room space and an additional jet bridge.

“These changes would allow passengers to have additional space for queue lines at the ticket counter, and more holding space at the gates. Passengers would also benefit from updated finishes, furnishings, and signage throughout the terminal building,” he said.

Staff at the airport will be working with air transportation officials at the state and federal level to secure as much funding as possible for the airport’s planned expansion and renovations, Hinderman said.

“We are confident there will be federal funding available to support this project. At this time, opinions on probable cost are not known, but that will be something the architectural team will identify,” he said.

Because the quality of a city’s air access is important to travelers flying in and out of it for business purposes, the project is important not only for the region’s quality of life, but for its economic future, Hinderman said.

“The best way to obtain new air service is by showing airline partners that the community is invested in their local airport. This project will show airlines that the northeast Indiana region is growing, and Fort Wayne, and area residents, are utilizing FWA,” he said.

“Additionally, because turbo-prop aircraft no longer serves FWA, as well as our airlines upgrading from the 50-seat regional jet to larger capacity aircraft, the ramp space is congested,” Hinderman said.

“It is becoming nearly impossible to park an aircraft at our gates because of aircraft wing span conflicts. By adding an additional gate, we will be better able to accommodate larger aircraft at FWA to serve northeast Indiana.”

Fort Wayne International Airport took an important step toward expansion of its terminal capacity when it completed construction last year on a new entrance road.

The $3.3 million terminal entrance road project created additional space needed for parking and for passenger pickup and drop-off, as well as an expansion of the terminal facility, airport officials said last year.

“We are thankful to the residents of northeast Indiana for utilizing their airport,” Hinderman said in a recent statement on activity there last year.

“As the region’s population grows, the airport board and staff are working hard to make sure FWA is prepared to accept the additional traffic,” he said.

“It is a continuous effort, working with our airline partners to expand existing routes or begin unserved routes from our market. It is exciting for the community’s airport to celebrate nine years of growth and we look forward to another year of growth in 2019.”

The airport saw its ninth consecutive year of growth last year in the number of passengers traveling through it, setting a record at more than 757,500.

The number of passengers boarding planes at the airport rose 3.5 percent to more than 381,100 last year from more than 368,200 the prior year.

In addition to the new entrance road, important projects completed at the airport in 2018 included the introduction of a valet parking service and the first phase of renovation for its Runway 5/23.

The valet parking offers curbside service at the terminal building and costs $16 per day. The second phase of renovation for the runway was to conclude this year.