An Eastern 727 at the old SRQ terminal in the late 1960s or early 1970s.

Sarasota/Bradenton Municipal Airport opened its new terminal in 1959 - a modern glass-and-brick structure that had taken more than a year to construct. Topped by a three-story control tower, it was several sizes larger than its predecessor. At the time, SRQ was served only by Eastern and National Airlines, both of whom operated propliners up and down the Gulf Coast to connect with flights in Miami and Tampa.

In its initial configuration, the building consisted of a single block-like structure. This terminal housed ticketing and baggage claim, as well as airline offices, a gift shop and coffee shop. Passengers boarded aircraft via airstairs from an outdoor walkway along the front of the building.

A National Convair propliner parked on SRQ's small apron in the early 1960s.

The SRQ terminal as it looked in the 1960s - a very small, square building with all operations under a single roof.

Both Eastern and National began jet services with the Boeing 727 in the late 1960s. By the 1970s, the outdoor boarding walkway had been enclosed, and an ancillary building for baggage claim had been added to the east of the main building.

The jet age comes to SRQ - National and Eastern 727s rest on the apron in front of the terminal in this mid-1970s view.
Courtesy of Jim Kruggel

It wasn't until after airline deregulation in 1978 that SRQ really began to boom. New airlines - Delta, TWA, Southern, United, Continental, USAir and Piedmont, among others - initiated flights to SRQ, capitalizing on its proximity to Gulf Coast resort areas. Despite SRQ's short runways, nonstop flights to northeastern and midwestern cities began. SRQ was no longer a 'flag stop' on the route up the Florida coast.

To cope with the increase in passengers, a second terminal building was completed in 1979. Built rather cheaply from cinderblocks and concrete, it was located immediately southwest of the main building and featured ticketing, baggage claim and departure lounges all under one roof. Delta, Southern and United moved into this facility, and were later joined by American and TWA. Eastern, National (which merged with Pan Am in 1979), and the other carriers remained in the older terminal.

A map of SRQ from 1981. Only the unit terminal is shown in detail. From a United Airlines services guide courtesy of Tom Moore

Three views of the SRQ terminal area taken in 1987 from the arrival/departure roadway. The first photo looks west toward the main building and unit terminal. A Delta 727 is parked on the apron behind the unit terminal. The second picture shows the front of the unit terminal, and the third picture looks east, towards the ancillary baggage claim building added in the 1970s. Construction on the new terminal complex would have been just beginning behind the photographer. Photos by Tom Moore

A view of the original SRQ terminal, also taken in 1987. Eastern, Pan Am and Continental were among the users of this terminal - the tail of a Continental 727 can be seen over the top of the building. Photo by Tom Moore

Looking across the airfield toward the old SRQ terminal in 1987. Two Eastern 727s are parked at the original terminal, while the tail of a Delta 727 can just be seen around the corner at the unit terminal. Photo by Tom Moore

Even with the addition of the unit terminal, traffic continued to grow until the terminal facilities reached saturation point in the mid-1980s. Airport officials broke ground on a new two-level terminal building in 1987. The new terminal was built south of the existing facility, which remained in continuous operation throughout construction. Passenger operations were moved to the new building in 1989, and the old buildings were demolished almost immediately, to make room for aircraft parking on the new terminal concourse.

A final view of SRQ from the mid-1980s, just before work on the new terminal got underway.
From a magazine ad courtesy of Tom Moore

SRQ's new terminal under construction in 1988. The bulk of the new building went up in the old terminal parking lot. Note that traffic to the existing terminal has to be routed around the construction. Photo courtesy of Tom Moore

An aerial view of the new SRQ taking shape in early 1989. The old terminals are at the far end of the new building, directly in the path of the new concourse. One jetway is in use at the new terminal, but the rest cannot be installed until the old buildings are pulled down.

A satellite view of the SRQ terminal area in 2001. No trace of the old terminal exists.

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