DIA Great Hall Phase Two

Dennis Huspeni, The Denver Gazette From left: Denver International Airport’s CEO Kim Day; Larry Naum, federal security director for the Transportation Security Administration in Colorado; and Cristal Torres-DeHerrera, chief of staff, pull out a life-size rendering of the new security checkpoints that will be built in the Great Hall improvements, phase two.

The Denver City Council business committee approved the issuance of $700 million in bonds to the Denver International Airport Wednesday, intended to fund capital improvements at the airport.

The bonds will now be passed to the full council for final votes on Nov. 29 and Dec. 6.

Senior Financial Management Analyst Lupe Gutierrez said the $700 million would be interim notes from Bank of America used to finance remaining projects in the airport’s 2018-2022 Capital Improvement Program.

“The proposed interim notes serve as a type of short-term or bridge financing that would allow progress and funding to continue at the airport on existing plans, while allowing the airport team the flexibility and time it needs to work on formulating its next five-year capital improvement plan,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez said the $700 million would largely go toward funding the airport’s gate expansion and phases one and two of the Great Hall Project — a plan that some council members raised issue with.

Work on the Great Hall Project began in 2018 to renovate the airport’s main Jeppesen Terminal, but it was halted in 2019 when the contractor was fired with the project only 25% complete. After hiring a new contractor in 2020, the airport celebrated the completion of phase one of the project last month.

“Why are we borrowing more money for phases one and two of Great Hall when the $770 million max budget has already been set and (presumably) funded?” Councilman Kevin Flynn asked. “We’re $25 million under budget, is what I was told.”

Sylvester Lavender, the airport's chief financial officer, said they still have $948 million in their capital fund, partially from the Great Hall funding, but they want to use the existing funding for future capital projects and use the interim funds to finish the Great Hall.

The last time the airport used interim financing was in 2017 when it received a $450 million bond for capital projects.

Bonds issued on behalf of the airport are solely repayable by airport revenues, and there is no impact to city credit or city taxes. Currently, the airport is about $5.5 billion in debt, with 90% of the debt from revenue bonds issued for specific capital projects, according to the airport.

Councilwoman Deborah Ortega asked airport officials to provide the council with a breakdown of the outstanding debt before bringing forward its next Capital Improvement Program.

The committee voted unanimously to advance the bonds to the full council.

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