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American Airlines to build new headquarters in Fort Worth

American Airlines will build a new headquarters complex in Fort Worth, ending speculation that the airline was considering moving its main office to another Metroplex city.

The Fort Worth-based carrier said it will demolish the one-time Sabre Holdings headquarters building on the northwest corner of Trinity Boulevard and Highway 360 and construct four buildings on the 97-acre site. American did not disclose the cost of the project but said the new buildings will house about 5,000 employees.

It expects to break ground on the new buildings next spring and move into the new facilities in late summer or early fall of 2018.

The new location is adjacent to American’s Flight Academy and Training and Conference Center and near to its newly-opened $88 million Integrated Operations Center that opened in September. By moving the headquarters from its current location on Amon Carter Boulevard, American will create a corporate campus on the west side of 360 that is about 300 acres.

“Today’s corporate staff and support teams sit in Fort Worth in ... two older, inefficient office buildings that are becoming increasingly costly to maintain and are inconvenient and uninviting to non-headquarters employees,” American said in a letter sent to employees on Thursday. “Our current headquarters is remote from the very people we are here to support.”

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, who has been in talks with American over the last several months, said the airline has been a “strong Fort Worth company” and that “it’s very exciting to know” they will stay in the city.

“It’s a really big win for the entire Metroplex,” Price said, “It’s going to be an amazing corporate campus. It’s a big investment.”

American has not yet approached the city regarding possible incentives for the project, but that’s likely to happen.

In June of 2014, the Fort Worth City Council approved a 15-year, $6.5 million tax incentive from the city for the 149,000-square-foot Integrated Operations Center.

American built its two current headquarters buildings in the Centreport business park in 1988 and 1990. Since merging with US Airways and exiting bankruptcy nearly two years ago, the company has recorded strong profits and has been on a hiring spree, adding thousands of workers. It currently employs about 25,000 in North Texas.

“The buildings are almost 30 years old, facing the end of the life of a number of key building systems, and very expensive to maintain,” the letter said. “Our decision was made easy by the availability of the property adjacent to the existing west campus and the opportunity to combine our headquarters team members with our team members who serve our customers.”

Sabre, originally part of American Airlines before being spun off as a separate company in 2000, used the former headquarters building at 13951 Trinity Blvd. until 2001 when it opened a new corporate campus in the Solana development in Southlake.

In 2010, Sabre hired Jones Lang LaSalle to lease the 560,000-square-foot facility, which was described as “a secluded five-story, furnished office building with a conferencing facility, classrooms, a full-service cafeteria, a baseball field and a scenic walking trail.”

The new headquarters location is owned by Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and will be leased back to American. The long-term lease will have to be approved by the cities of Fort Worth and Dallas.

Elise Eberwein, American’s executive vice president of people and communications, said the new campus will give management and corporate employees the opportunity to engage with the airline’s frontline employees, including pilots and flight attendants who regularly attend training at the Flight Academy and flight dispatchers who work in the new operations center.

“We’ve just got to get to a place where the world’s largest airline has one campus, one team and a way for those people to mix it up every day,” Eberwein said.

Rumblings about a possible headquarters move surfaced in summer 2014 when the city of Irving disclosed that it was talking to American about relocating to the former Texas Stadium site near Highway 114 and Loop 12. At the time, American’s chief executive Doug Parker said it was considering renovating its existing headquarters buildings or possibly moving to a new location, and that the issue was not a top priority.

It has always been believed that Fort Worth was at the top of American’s list of possible headquarters locations because the airline already has several facilities including the C.R. Smith museum and a large reservations office located on the west side of Highway 360.

“We really like having the team together and I will say if and when we ever decide to move, Fort Worth has a huge head start,” Parker said in September when American’s dedicated its new IOC. “That’s what management is supposed to support ... I don’t think we should, as other companies do today, [manage] from afar.”

Staff writer Sandra Baker contributed to this report.

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk

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