McGhee Tyson: Growing to match what’s coming

Tom KingBlount

The northern end of Blount County is exploding with growth – the new $200 million Amazon Fulfillment Center in Alcoa with its robots and 1,000 employees is up and running. The worldwide headquarters for gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson, based in Springfield near Boston since 1852, is now based on 240-acres just off Profitt Springs Road in Maryville.

And both are quite close to the runways at McGhee Tyson Airport. Not a coincidence.

There’s more growth on the way, which is why the Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority has embarked on a multi-year Terminal Area Development Program to stay ahead of the record-breaking passenger numbers the airport expects over the next decade. The airport experienced its highest passenger volume ever in 2022 with 2.6 million passengers. Studies show that by 2026 that number will be in the neighborhood of 3.5 million.

The authority’s plan begins with three distinct phases to address some of the most utilized areas of the airport as well as those facilities at or beyond their ability to meet current demand for services:

  1. A new $180 million parking garage to complement existing parking facilities (work to begin in 2024)
  2. Increase by 4 to 6 the number of airport gates from the current 12 gates
  3. A variety of projects within the terminal (projects being considered include additional TSA checkpoint lanes, increasing ticket counter options, an in-line baggage system and expanded concession opportunities).

Becky Huckaby

Becky Huckaby, vice president of public relations for the airport authority, spoke to the Rotary Club of Farragut (10/25/23) at the Farragut Community Center about these big changes coming to McGhee Tyson.

“Due to historic growth in passenger traffic, McGhee Tyson is investing in a new parking garage that will add 3,500 new parking spaces on six levels, has expanded its economy parking lots to include a new parking area with shuttle service, and is planning to add 4-6 additional passenger gates,” she said.

In addition to relocating its headquarters, Smith & Wesson also will move its distribution, assembly and plastic injection molding operations to the new Blount County property. They will employ approximately 600.

Amazon’s new facility intends to bring more operations to the region soon. It is the 100th robotics facility for Amazon and its name is “TYS1” to reflect the code for McGhee Tyson Airport.

Here are some updated facts about McGhee Tyson:

  • Between 90 and 100 flights daily
  • 5 airlines – American Airlines, Allegiant, Delta, Frontier and United.
  • Non-stop flights to 25 cities daily
  • 88th largest airport in the U.S.
  • Monthly passenger records were set March through August 2023.

Huckaby shared another interesting tidbit the flying public never sees.

“Every night around midnight to 4 or 5 a.m. after commercial flights end, the cargo jets start landing and another workforce gets busy,” she said. Jets from FedEx, UPS, DHL and a few others serve Knoxville. “We aren’t sure yet how much Amazon will impact our freight carriers. But we know it will.

“As the community grows, and it is growing, so does the need for additional airport infrastructure and air service opportunities. We are working hard to not only meet the current demand but plan to accommodate future airport travelers,” Huckaby said.

Tom King is a career journalist and a past president of the Rotary Club of Farragut, which meets each Wednesday at 12:15 p.m. at the Farragut Community Center, 239 Jamestown Blvd. If you want more information about Rotary or are interested in attending a meeting or joining, please email Tom or text him at 865-659-3562.


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