“Love Evolution” sounds like it could’ve been the title of Justin Timberlake’s latest album. Or a command emblazoned in bold black letters on the bumper of Richard Dawkins’ sedan. Or the airy mantra chanted by a new-age, sheep-romancing cult. But instead we’re talking about Dallas Love Field’s shorthand and official brand for its five-year modernization project.
Today we got a sneak peek of the airport’s newly done-up segment of Terminal 2. It’s the first major milestone for Love Evolution, and it will open to the ticket-purchasing public next Tuesday, April 16. The modernization program, which began in 2009 through a strategic partnership between the city of Dallas and Southwest Airlines, seeks to give a facelift to the nearly six-decade-old airport in order to meet the demands (and indulge the fancies) of the 21st-century air traveler.
The construction project will conclude in 2014—synchronized with the full repeal of the Wright Amendment restrictions—and will equip the airport with the technology, amenities, and “post-9/11” design to accommodate the current 4 million yearly passengers, as well as the estimated 2 million extra passengers who will flock to Love once its carriers are free to fly the country.
The modernization program is budgeted for $519 million. But the good news, according to Mark Duebner, director of aviation for the city: the project is expected to finish on time and under budget. Remaining on the to-do list is one section of the concourse, including nine gates.
(Oh, and if this feels like déjà vu, it should. Love Field’s new terminal opening comes as Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is working on its own “renewal” project, which was reported on a couple of weeks ago by yours truly. I am evidently D’s airport-renovation correspondent.)
So what’s modern about the “New Dallas Love Field” (which the press release insists on calling it)?
1. A brand-new, 20-gate concourse built above the former concourse. It’s roomier, thanks to wider walkways and higher ceilings. It’s predictably (but thankfully) heavy on eco-friendly, recyclable building materials and is illuminated by energy-efficient lighting. Power outlets and USB chargers are easier to find, and the terminal offers 30 minutes of free WiFi. For those keeping count, the 20 gates are fewer than the old terminal, per the five-party agreement that culminated in the upcoming 2014 repeal of the Wright Amendment. But aviation director Duebner insists that Love Field will be able to maintain the same capacity with fewer gates.
2. A “distinctively Dallas” aesthetic experience. Duebner repeated the term “passenger experience,” like, 40 times. Part of that experience is more pleasant surroundings that evoke the look and feel of Dallas. This means the occasional (faux?) wood paneling (Dallas as Old West outpost), but also glimmering, colored fiberglass (the “Big Things Happen Here” Dallas).
3. A “distinctively Dallas” product mix. As Dallas’ “front door,” according to Duebner, the New Love Field must and does feature concessions that reflect Dallas culture. That means restaurants like Sky Canyon by Stephan Pyles, Cantina Laredo, Cool River Cafe, and (alas) Dickey’s. It also means retail shops like Billy Bob’s Texas, Creative Kidstuff, and a Soybu/Bliss joint space. And, above all, it means awesome new spots like (and we’ve mentioned this would be coming) D Magazine News (your one-stop shop for snacks and beverages, reading material and Dallas and Texas paraphernalia, Brookstone electronics and travel gear, and Texas specialties like Dude, Sweet Chocolate; SuckleBusters’ barbecue sauces; and Chef Dean Fearing marinades).
4. Art. By far, the New Love Field’s greatest coup is its selection of artwork. The revamped and expanded security checkpoint (part of the “post-9/11” design, constructed to enable better traffic flow) is a sight to behold for those who remember the cramped, old Love Field security area. But what makes it an experience is the arresting glazed-tile mosaic, by Texas artist Dixie Friend Gay, entitled “North Texas Sunrise.” There’s also the “Blueprint of Flight,” a blue, painted-glass piece that lines the entryway to the concourse and evokes the miracle of airborne man. And “Sky,” an ethereal, fiberglass-rod-and-aluminum-sculpture halo that hangs above the food court. The New Love Field’s public art collection comprises 15 works in total, including four original to the airport. Check them out at www.lovefieldartprogram.com.
Of course, change can also be a hard thing, especially for those of us who wax nostalgic about the shabby, cozy Love Field of yore. But while the new airport may have lost some of its old-Dallas charm and intimacy, you can still—if you look for it—find the comforting signs of a familiar place: that sprawling floor map of the world and that welcoming Texas Ranger of 1960 statute.
Farraz Khan is a D Magazine intern.