BY BTL STAFF
GRAND RAPIDS – Beer City USA is a distinction twice earned and still claimed by Grand Rapids, which claims dozens of breweries spread through the city and surrounding areas, according to an MLive.com report.
So perhaps it’s appropriate that one of the first businesses airline passengers arriving in town will find will be a beer-themed restaurant.
Prospect Hill Brewhouse, featuring a selection of beers including drafts from local brewing juggernaut Founders, will open inside the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in summer 2017.
“We are excited to have a local flair in our restaurant scene, and what better way to own up to our title of Beer City USA than adding the Prospect Hill Brewhouse right here in the airport?” said Phil Johnson, the airport’s acting president and CEO.
Drawing its name from a historical geographic feature of clay and gravel in downtown Grand Rapids — left behind by glaciers but disappearing by the late 1800s — the new brewpub is one of a handful of new offerings tied to the ongoing Gateway Transformation Project at the airport.
The $45 million project includes updates to security screenings and the airport’s Grand Hall, including the installation of the new retail and concessions marketplace.
The project also includes plans for a restaurant called The Local @ GRR, a retail store with Michigan-themed items, another casual dining restaurant, two new Starbucks stores, a Burger Federation restaurant and a Firehouse Subs location.
The new restaurants and stores coming to the airport are part of new partnership agreements with global restaurateur HMSHost and travel retailer Hudson Group, which already has 950 stores in 83 airports across North America.
HMSHost, part of travel food and beverage giant Autogrill Group, operates in more than 120 airports around the globe — including 44 of the 50 busiest in North America — and boasts annual sales of more than $2.8 billion and more than 37,000 employees.
“Our passengers were craving more options for food and beverage post-security, and this partnership with HMSHost will accomplish just that,” Johnson said.
The new Prospect Hill Brewhouse will be located past the airport’s security checkpoint in a newly-expanded area of the airport.
In addition to beer, the restaurant will feature handcrafted deli sandwiches like Buffalo-style roasted chicken, bacon and tomato conglomeration served on a French roll, a cheesesteak sandwich and a pulled pork sandwich with Founders’ Dirty Bastard BBQ sauce.
HMSHost Vice President of Business Development Bryan Loden said the company is happy to continue its existing partnership with the airport.
“It is very exciting for HMSHost to be able to contribute to the many great enhancements happening at the airport,” Loden said. “The restaurants we will be opening will deliver an authentic taste of Michigan and will offer the variety and quality that travelers demand.”
The other restaurant offerings are expected to open “soon after” the opening of Prospect Hill Brewhouse in the summer.
One of the new retail stores expected to open at the airport is a “Touch of Grand Rapids” store featuring West Michigan-themed products and featuring a partnership with the Grand Rapids Art Museum. Grand Rapids Magazine Travel Stores will also be found on each concourse and a Hudson News retail store will be located pre-security in the airport’s grand hall.
The stores will offer travel essentials ranging from reading material and snacks to travel and convenience necessities, local souvenirs and electronics.
Hudson Group Senior Vice President of Operations Mario Scorcia said the company is happy to bring its mission to be “the traveler’s best friend” to Grand Rapids.
“It is a true game-changer in the travel retail industry and we could not be more excited to bring our global expertise to Grand Rapids,” Scorcia said.
The Gateway Transformation project will be completed in two phases, the first of which is scheduled for completion in summer 2017. The second phase will include improvements to airline ticketing, baggage screening and baggage claim areas.
The Gerald R. Ford International Airport is Michigan’s second busiest, serving more than 2.5 million passengers in 2015 and more than 7,000 on a daily basis. The airport, operated through the relatively new Gerald R. Ford International Airport Authority, offers nonstop service to 24 destinations and logs more than 120 daily nonstop flights.
A new route from Grand Rapids to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington D.C. was announced earlier this month.
In addition to the physical transformations already underway at the airport, its administration also finds itself in a period of transition.
Johnson will soon pass the mantle of leadership to incoming President and CEO Jim Gill, selected for the job by the airport authority’s board in November.
Gill, who currently serves as CFO and COO at the Allegheny County Airport Authority in Pittsburgh, will begin work in Grand Rapids in Jan. 9.
Gill replaces former executive director Brian Ryks, who announced his resignation in March and started work as executive director and CEO of the Metropolitan Airports Commission in Minneapolis/St. Paul earlier this year.
BY BTL STAFF