A new terminal building for a new era

October 29, 2021

Categories: At YWG, Community, History

The airport terminal building at night.

Reflecting on the 10th anniversary of the terminal building at YWG

After 48 years of Winnipeg’s airport operating out of the well-loved, east-facing terminal building, the construction of a new, modern airport terminal was completed on October 30, 2011, to provide a solid springboard for the future.

Winnipeg’s old airport terminal building served the region well during a period of steady growth as the demand for air travel mushroomed from the 60s to the 2000s. The structure underwent significant upgrades along the way to meet the needs of passengers, but the building eventually reached its threshold. The facility wasn’t designed to accommodate the close to three million travellers the airport began to see at the turn of the century. While extending the 40-plus-year-old building with structural obstacles was an option, it wasn’t the path best suited to match Winnipeg Airports Authority’s (WAA) bold vision for the future of the airport and the region.

“The reason for the building is actually a reflection of our vision and mission,” said Barry Rempel, President and CEO of Winnipeg Airports Authority. “This building has never been about just being a building. It’s like everything else we do, it has to serve a bigger purpose, it has to serve our why. It’s that vision we’ve always had about we’re here to serve, we’re here to serve our community that’s very positively reflected in what we have here. This is the first place many people see, it is the reflection of our community.”

In the early 2000’s, WAA began its 10-year journey to redevelop the airport and invest in a new terminal building. To ensure the massive undertaking would provide an inspiring front door to the region, one the community could be proud of, WAA looked to internationally renowned architect, Cesar Pelli, to design the iconic hub.


The baggage carousels at Winnipeg Richardson International Airport.

After spending a trip touring Manitoba, Pelli shared with Rempel what struck him the most about the region — the openness of the landscape of the prairies and of the people who live here. The design for the terminal was rooted in two key words he shared upon experiencing the region: open and connected. As Pelli sketched the first design for the terminal on a napkin in that moment, Pelli Architects later expressed the motivation behind the space as, “We wanted everyone to know they were in Winnipeg and nowhere else.” The design for the terminal would only exist in Winnipeg, and with its unobstructed views of the prairies and vast openness throughout, that notion became a reality.

Another driving factor behind the new terminal was the desire to increase the community’s access to the world by removing barriers for new airlines to enter the market. To meet this goal, the new terminal incorporated a common use component to allow all the facilities within to be used by any airline, at any time, from any position. This provided a turnkey solution for airlines to begin operating out of Winnipeg, making the airport more competitive and able to attract increased travel options to serve the region. In the former terminal, each airline owned its own counters, had their own gates and bridges, which wasn’t conducive to new business or maximizing the use of the space.

Three aircraft at the gates at Winnipeg Richardson International Airport.
The Departures Level shown near opening day.

Once complete, the new terminal building was only 32 per cent larger than its predecessor, yet it offered 70 per cent more usable space. Upon construction, it wasn’t overbuilt but rather developed with eye on the future to allow the airport to be expanded as needed over time to meet the needs of region. In the early stages though, its enhanced layout would serve in facilitating the efficient flow of passengers through the facility in all areas, especially security.

“Many people don’t realize from the old terminal, during winter operations, the die back that happened at security,” said WAA team member Scott Marohn, the Director of Terminal Service and Customer Experience in 2011. “Security lines would go through the entire upper level and around the food court because of the inefficiency of what we had. You look at the new terminal today and there are seven lines at security, it’s just way more efficient.”

What was unknown at the time of construction was that Winnipeg Richardson International Airport’s new terminal building would be the first terminal to be built in North America in the post-9/11 era. This pivotal time in the sector reinforced the strategic planning behind the facility as a nimble structure, able to adapt to changes, advancements and evolving best practices. Along with making sure the space could meet the highest standards in the industry, construction of the new terminal presented WAA with an opportunity to make a statement in the importance of environmental sustainability.


While many enhanced elements are easy to spot in the terminal today – the natural light flooding in from all angles, multiple elevators and improved roadways up to the curb – several others quietly deliver major benefits behind the scenes each day.

 “The planning team had a lot of foresight,” said WAA employee Tara Hull, the Environmental Specialist when the terminal first opened. “The design incorporated many sustainable features, primarily focused on energy efficiency and emissions reduction."

From the high efficiency lighting and heating systems to fixtures with reduced water consumption, the 51,500 square-metre facility became the first airport terminal in Canada to be LEED certified, earning the LEED Silver level designation.

The operationally efficient, globally competitive, and environmentally friendly terminal building is now ten years old as of this week. A decade later, it remains the iconic front door to our region and continues to provide an inspiring, state-of-the-art foundation to serve our community for years to come.

A LEED Certified recognition on display inside the terminal building.
The terminal building from a distance depicting the vast prairie landscape and horizon.
We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By using this site, you agree to these cookies being set. To learn more, read our Privacy Policy.
Learn MoreAgree