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CODY — Boardings are up this summer at Yellowstone Regional Airport, and managers are hoping that a new terminal scheduled to open by early November will help build year-round traffic and boost Cody’s reputation as a close and convenient entry point for air travelers visiting Yellowstone National Park.

Nearly 4,000 passengers took off from the airport in August, up nearly 14 percent from last year. The increase was driven at least in part by three consecutive months of record visitation to Yellowstone in June, July and August.

The increase comes at a time when Yellowstone Regional Airport board members and manager Bob Hooper are working to increase jet service to the airport in the summer, and maintain steady traffic numbers in the off-season.

A nearly completed $12.5 million terminal is likely to help that effort, said board chairman David Jenkins, who checked on workers Wednesday as they were preparing for a walk-through Friday to identify final items needing completion.

“It’s definitely coming along, and I think it’s going to be really nice,” Jenkins said of the new building, which features a café with runway views, an energy-efficient design and twice as much space as the current terminal.

Though the building will probably end up costing just under $6 million, another $6 million or more will have been spent on roads, parking lots, infrastructure and the reinforced concrete parking and boarding area for planes.

Jenkins said the Federal Aviation Administration virtually dictated that Cody build a new terminal, and that federal and state funding covered 98 percent of the cost. Passenger fees covered the local 2 percent portion of construction costs.

Board member Craig Wilbur said high-efficiency heating and cooling systems, recycled building materials and daylighting throughout the nearly 28,000-square-foot terminal were elements of “good, efficient design that’s also environmentally friendly.”

Project managers expect the building to qualify for bronze-level certification under Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards.

A new baggage scanner will speed passenger check-in, reducing the need for searching each bag by hand, the current method used.

Hooper said electricians working on the high-tech project told him there is “over a mile of electrical wiring in the system.”

The secure waiting area can simultaneously serve two departure gates and includes restrooms; the current terminal has limited seating and no restrooms.

Jenkins said the new facility has space for four airlines and three rental car agencies, and is designed for expansion at each end of the main concourse if more space is needed.

Regional carrier SkyWest handles flights for Cody’s two carriers, United Airlines and Delta Airlines, with the market evenly split between them.

SkyWest will pay $2,950 a month for its two carrier spots in the new terminal, according to a three-year lease approved Wednesday by board members.

A 45-seat restaurant offers views of Heart Mountain and the runway, and features reclaimed fir wood flooring.

Though the new terminal will offer free wireless Internet access, flat-screen monitors displaying scheduling information and other high-tech amenities, it won’t have something found in nearly every other airport: a coin-operated pay phone.

The baggage claim area will include courtesy phones connecting to hotels and other local services, as well as a public phone allowing free local and toll-free calls. But there are no plans to install a coin-operated pay phone.

Jenkins said that almost everyone has a calling card or cell phone, and the lone pay phone in the existing terminal is barely used by change-wielding callers.

“We pay $50 a month for the one we have now, and if we get $1 in coins out of it for the month, we’re lucky,” Jenkins said.

He said the addition midway through the project of an $80,000 electronic key-card access and security system is “money well-spent.”

That security upgrade, not present in the existing terminal and not originally planned for the new facility, is among the steps the Yellowstone Regional Airport must take to meet federal standards for airports that regularly serve larger regional jets.

Board members have cited service by those bigger planes as a key part of their long-term plan to encourage air travel to Cody. Fare parity with Billings flights and state and private subsidies to ensure regular winter air service are other components of that plan.

Jenkins and Wilbur praised Hooper for his work supervising construction on the new terminal, which started almost one year ago, saying the project has amounted to a second job for him over the last year.

Hooper said the exact date when the new terminal will open depends largely on how long it takes SkyWest to set up computer systems and other custom equipment, but that passengers arriving home for Thanksgiving are likely to touch down at the new building.

 

Contact Ruffin Prevost at rprevost@billingsgazette.com or 307-527-7250.

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