Record number of passengers prompts more expansion at Yampa Valley Regional Airport
Airport is among most important assets in Hayden, town manager says
HAYDEN — Now in his eighth winter as director of Yampa Valley Regional Airport, Kevin Booth has often made a trip down Routt County Road 51A from the airport’s main terminal to its eastern end.
On these treks, Booth has shown property near the eastern boundary — land seen as ideal for private plane hangars — to a number of interested parties.
“Within the last 18 months to two years, it feels like we have had serious interest and people have followed through,” Booth said. “It’s a demand thing and the demand is there, so we’re going to make sure we can meet it.”
Work on these additional hangars is expected to start next year, and Booth is looking to expand the airport’s footprint to be able to accommodate additional similar developments. This is just one of several improvements being made to accommodate more planes as the airport is expected to serve more passengers this winter than ever before.
About a year after completing a $5.2 million terminal renovation, the airport’s growth has prompted a review of a plan outlining its development and expansion goals. While it isn’t planned now, Booth said they will eventually need to add two more gates.
The biggest current project, slated to cost about $6.5 million, will convert a small de-ice pad originally meant for private planes into one that can accommodate the largest commercial jets able to land at the airport.
“We really need the additional capacity to de-ice because that’s kind of what holds us up on the snowy days,” Booth said, adding that it should be done before Labor Day.
Phase two of this project expands commercial de-ice pads on the west end of the commercial plane area to hold two planes at a time. By the start of next season, Booth said the airport will be able to de-ice four planes at once, if needed.
The airport just finished work on a solar array as part of a larger regional project, and Booth said new backup generators will be installed this month before the bulk of out-of-towners start arriving.
“We’re going to do our part on the sustainability, and we’re going to reduce our power bills,” Booth said. “If we have a power outage this winter, we’ll just keep humming along.”
The airport is also seeing more local use, Booth said, something evident by the increased use of long-term parking this summer. Work was recently completed to expand that lot by about 180 spaces.
Next year, Booth wants to build a new employee parking area, which will displace some parking spaces for rental cars. On the airport’s west end, crews are paving roads leading to a rental car refueling facility, and adding two overflow parking lots and car wash devoted to rentals. Those improvements are paid for by the rental car companies.
Especially with the growth in passenger numbers, the airport is turning a profit for the county — estimated at about $2 million for next year. Hayden Town Manager Mathew Mendisco said the airport is one of the most important economic drivers in the county, possibly second only to Steamboat Resort, and is of particular significance to Hayden.
“The airport is by far — as an entity, even an employer — the single biggest asset that is in the town of Hayden,” Mendisco said. “Their success is paramount to our success.”
Airport business generates a significant amount of sales tax collections for Hayden — through October, $355,000 of total $1.4 million collected was tied to the airport. The airport also gives the town of just under 2,000 residents the stature of a bigger community.
“I don’t believe that the business park we’re planning right now would be viable if it wasn’t up by the airport,” Mendisco said, referencing a competition for federal funding Hayden is part of.
The significance of the airport is well understood, and a seat on the town’s economic development council is reserved for an airport representative, which currently is Booth. The only other seat specifically reserved is for a member of the town board.
Booth and Mendisco are in constant contact and some of the developments the airport is working on are required to go through the town’s planning commission. The two have discussed the addition of private hangars, which Booth hopes will eventually attract businesses like an airplane mechanic to Hayden. In turn, Mendisco said it increases both property and sales taxes.
“I don’t know if we would be able to provide the level of service we do today if we didn’t have the airport,” Mendisco said. “If we didn’t have an airport within the town boundary, Hayden wouldn’t be growing the way it is.”
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Tanner Coulter and his family were looking for somewhere to spread out a bit.