CODY - Construction is set to begin on a new $5.6 million terminal at Yellowstone Regional Airport, and a host of dignitaries showed up Monday for a ceremonial groundbreaking at the site of the new building.
The total project cost, including infrastructure, roads, parking and boarding ramp, will be about $12.4 million, with the project scheduled for completion by the end of 2010, said Bob Hooper, airport manager.
Funded almost entirely through state and federal sources, the new building will be 28,000 square feet - about twice the size of the existing terminal - and will be built using energy-efficient designs and sustainable building materials.
"We had lots of public comments encouraging us to pursue LEED certification, which we have done," Hooper said.
Yet it was not the building's environmentally friendly design, but how to fill it with passengers, that was the focus of many comments at Monday's event.
Construction of the new terminal comes as financially ailing airlines are cutting service amid the lingering recession, with Cody and hundreds of other smaller communities nationwide likely to see fewer flights this fall.
"We need to make sure this continues to be such a vital part of the community and such a vital part of this economy," said Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo.
"Air service is so important to this community, and it's so important to the businesses and to tourism," said state Rep. Colin Simpson.
Members of the nonprofit Cody-Yellowstone Air Service Organization are still raising money for a total of $700,000 in subsidy payments that were due Aug. 1 to air carriers Delta and United for winter service in 2008-2009.
The group is about $30,000 short of a 20 percent local match required as part of a minimum revenue guarantee for last winter's service, said Rich Petersen, a CYASO board member.
Funded mainly through the Wyoming Aeronautics Commission, the subsidies are meant to help ensure more daily flights and better aircraft serving YRA.
Delta will not seek a subsidy this winter, but United had asked CYASO for guaranteed revenues of $700,000 to reach a 20 percent profit margin as part of a negotiated package of services.
Petersen said the board voted to guarantee the airline $450,000 for a daily midday flight to Denver from Oct. 25 until May 31, with the state being asked to pay 85 percent of the subsidy.
"It's not ideal, but it's the best we can hope for considering the financial circumstances," he said.
Only about $168,000 in local money will be spent on the new terminal, with state and federal funds covering almost all of the $12.4 million project, said Tim Wick, of consulting engineering firm Morrison Maierle.
Wick said that careful planning, shrewd grant applications and a competitive bidding climate have shaved millions off the bottom line for local taxpayers.
Dave Jenkins, chairman of the YRA board, said the new terminal is being built at the recommendation of the Federal Aviation Administration. The old terminal has limited parking, outdated security and screening facilities and no restrooms in the passenger gate areas.
Contact Ruffin Prevost at email@example.com or 307-527-7250.