MAC Facts: History of MSPPosted on February 18, 2021
Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) is a joint civil-military public use international airport. As a joint civil-military airport, MSP is home to the Air Force Reserve Command 934th Airlift Wing and the Air National Guard 133rd Airlift Wing.
Long before the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) became the airport’s owner and operator, air travel in the Twin Cities went through a series of boom-and-partial-bust periods. The Roaring 20s, the Great Depression and the build-up to World War II all influenced the growth of what is now MSP.
In 1914, Snelling Speedway sat where MSP operates today. The first hangar was a wooden structure constructed in 1920 to accommodate airmail service, and the 160-acre property became known as Speedway Field.
In 1923, the airport was renamed Wold-Chamberlain Field in honor of two local pilots, Ernest Wold and Cyrus Chamberlain, who lost their lives in combat during World War I. The airport soon became home to Northwest Airways, which in 1926 won the government's airmail contract and acquired the airport's only hangar. Passenger service began in 1929.
Aviation in the Twin Cities area in the early 1940s was growing through commercial flights, airmail service and an ever-increasing number of military operations and military flight training. The desire to create an airport commission grew with the idea of making the Twin Cities region a leading aviation hub. The legislation establishing the MAC was approved and enacted in 1943.
The legislated purpose of the MAC is to promote efficient, safe, and economical air commerce, develop the full potential of the area as an aviation center, and minimize the environmental impact from air transportation and the public’s exposure to noise and safety hazards around its airports. The MAC is authorized to develop airports within 35 miles of MSP. Although legally able to levy taxes, operation and development of the airport is funded through user rents and fees.
With the arrival of international air service, MSP underwent its final name change in 1948, becoming Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Construction for the iconic Terminal 1 -Lindbergh building began in 1958 and was opened to the public in 1962. Construction of Terminal 2 -Humphrey began in 1986.
Passenger growth continued to exceed expectations in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1996, the MAC began to implement the MSP 2010 Long-Term Comprehensive Plan, implementing $3.1 billion in airport improvements over the next 10 years.
Virtually every aspect of MSP was transformed as part of this plan, with a major expansion of Terminal 1, an entirely new Terminal 2, expanded roadways and parking, two automated airport trams, and development of a light-rail system connecting both MSP terminals to Mall of America and the downtowns of Minneapolis and Saint Paul.
In 2015, another major capital improvement program began that would eventually bring four additional gates to Terminal 2, a 5,000-space parking ramp, an onsite hotel, and an expansion of Terminal 1’s departures lobby and arrivals level.
Looking to the future, the MAC began the planning and engagement process for the 2040 Long-Term Comprehensive Plan in 2019. The document is a planning tool that studies facility and infrastructure needs based on projected 20-year passenger and operations numbers. Due to the impacts of COVID-19, this process is currently paused but is estimated to resume later this year. More information and updates are available at: www.mspairport.com/long-term-plan.