DIA termination

DIA CEO Kim Day addresses reporters Tuesday after the airport's termination of contractor Great Hall.

Passengers are looking at five to six additional years of construction noise, block-offs and re-routes at Denver International Airport.

DIA terminated contractor Great Hall Partners -- a consortium led by Spain's Ferrovial Airports -- in the middle of the airport’s major renovation, airport CEO Kim Day announced Tuesday.

The termination will be effective in November, and the airport hopes to have a new contractor in place by early next year.

The project now has a tentative finish date of 2025, four years later than the initial anticipated finish date of 2021.

The project's goal is to relocate DIA's security check-in stations from the main terminal's Great Hall upstairs to the baggage-checkin level, opening up space in the Great Hall for more retail and food outlets.

Day told reporters Tuesday that the “unfortunate transition” was the result of disagreements over safety, costs and timelines.

“Clearly, we’re disappointed,” she said. “This is not the outcome that we anticipated, but we are fully committed to completing the work responsibly and safely.”

The disagreements began when allegedly weak concrete was discovered during construction late last year. But Day said that Great Hall was cleared to resume work in February of this year and that the concrete investigation did not account for the entire delay.

Great Hall Partners said in a statement Tuesday that the delays were caused primarily by the weak concrete discovery as well as "more than 20 large-scale, badly timed and unnecessary change directives issued by [airport officials] to the design they had previously approved."

“We are disappointed with DEN’s decision and strongly disagree with their characterizations of how we have arrived at this point," the statement read. "We categorically reject their allegations around safety and change directives."

DIA must now pay termination costs to Great Hall Partners, which include reimbursement for about $200 million the company had contributed to the project, as well as any costs incurred to date related to the design and construction.

Day and airport Chief Financial Officer Gisela Shanahan said the necessary funds will come from airport revenue and not taxpayers, and that DIA is committed to staying within the original renovation budget of $770 million, which might mean downgrading or delaying certain aspects of the project.

When asked about Great Hall’s assertions that DIA officials had contributed to the delay by failing to approve offered updates in a timely manner, Day said that Great Hall had not offered enough information about cost and schedule implications.

“I am not going to take the fall for the fact that they didn’t give us the information that we needed to make decisions,” Day said. “Great Hall Partners repeatedly put options before us without costs or time estimates, so there was no way we could make timely decisions.”

Passenger navigation is an ongoing concern as major areas of the airport are blocked off.

“We are very concerned about passengers who get lost, as we do ourselves sometimes,” Day said. “There will be ongoing obstacles for passengers, but we’re going to try and make it as easy as possible.”

Day said that Mayor Michael Hancock is in agreement with their decision.

“We will always prioritize passenger safety and experience and will never compromise those values," Hancock said in an airport news release. "In the end, we did not have a partner who shared those values .... Denver International Airport is a vital asset for our city and state, and we are taking decisive action now to protect both the public and the integrity of our airport.” 

Day’s biggest regret, she said, is arriving at this point when 13 months ago, Great Hall Partners and DIA members were celebrating the partnership together.

“I’m just sorry that we’ve had to make this change, but it’s the right thing for us, the right thing for the city, and, quite honestly, it might be the right thing for Great Hall Partners, too,” Day said.

Great Hall Partners said it did not want to reach this point either.

"We would have preferred to work with [the airport] to bring this important project to successful fruition and believed with thoughtful intervention, that this was still possible," its statement read.  "We wish the people of Denver well and are committed to a professional and smooth withdrawal.”