Originally Published: December 18, 2018 10:17 p.m.
With only about 100 passengers to spare, the Prescott Regional Airport is on track to exceed the crucial 10,000-enplanement mark by the end of 2018.
And that is anticipated to bring millions of dollars of federal aviation grant money to help cover the cost of an $11.9 million new airport terminal.
After years of discussing the need for a new terminal to replace the city’s outdated 1940s-era building, the Prescott City Council got its first look Tuesday, Dec. 18, at the preliminary design of a new 18,000-square-foot single-peaked, glass-fronted passenger terminal.
Airport Director Robin Sobotta led off the discussion by telling the council that one of the major milestones in getting the terminal construction underway by the end of 2019 appears to be achieved.
“We’ve already sold enough tickets to reach 10,000 enplanements this year,” Sobotta said.
The long-sought-after 10,000-enplanement goal will put Prescott in a new eligibility category for Federal Aviation Administration grant money – upping its federal assistance from about $150,000 each year to $1 million.
The stakes are even higher this year because of the availability of supplemental federal aviation money, and Sobotta has pushed to get the terminal into this year’s grant cycle.
Sobotta emphasized that point again this week, even though she acknowledged that the 18,000-square-foot terminal likely would be at or past its intended capacity virtually as soon as it opens its doors.
While the terminal is being designed for about 25,000 annual passengers, Sobotta said 2019 could see as many as 27,000 to 29,000 passengers, based on current passenger trends.
“When we open up, we’ll be at capacity,” she told the council.
That prompted a question from Councilman Steve Sischka about whether the new terminal is being designed to be large enough to handle expected growth.
Although noting that he did not want to over-build, Sischka said, “It seems like we have an eight-passenger vehicle for a 10-passenger family.”
But Sobotta said the city is currently in a “good position” for federal funding, because it is relatively far along in the building-design and environmental-analysis process.
A new environmental analysis for a larger terminal would set the project back by a full year, Sobotta said, which would put Prescott into a much more competitive federal-grant cycle.
For that reason, Sobotta recommended moving ahead with the first phase of the new terminal now, and planning ahead for an expansion to handle future growth.
“It’s absolutely the best thing we can do at this point, and I wouldn’t hold it up,” Sobotta said, pointing out that the existing terminal is “wall-to-wall” people with the current daily flights to Los Angeles and Denver.
Local architect Michael Taylor, who is working with consultants Dibble Engineering on the project, added, “We have considered expansion, and it is in the planning.”
This week’s presentation marked the terminal’s 30-percent “schematic design,” which includes the site layout, as well as structural, exterior, and interior strategies, and a cost estimate.
Charlie McDermott, aviation planning manager with Dibble Engineering, and Taylor outlined the basic components of the proposed terminal.
Taylor said the interior of the building would feature a high-vaulted space and large windows looking out onto the view of Mingus Mountain.
Prescott Mayor Pro Tem Billie Orr voiced support for the design. “It looks like Prescott,” she said.
Although the interior includes a concession area rather than a restaurant, Sobotta said the city is considering seeking proposals to convert the nearby existing terminal building into a restaurant.
While the terminal itself is estimated at about $6.5 million, infrastructure costs and other fees add several-million dollars more, bringing the total estimated cost to $11,928,664.
City officials have discussed putting about $3.5 million of reserve funds toward the terminal cost. In addition, the city submitted an application in October for more than $9 million in supplemental federal funding. Sobotta said she expects to hear the outcome of the grant application within the next month to month-and-a-half.
The City Council heard the presentation on the preliminary design during Tuesday’s study session, and later voted unanimously to send the schematic design to the FAA for review and comment. The council also authorized spending as much as $499,453 for the next step – the 100-percent design.
Under the proposed plan, the project would be ready to go out to bid by late May, and construction is slated to get underway by the fourth quarter of 2019.
Since late August, the Prescott Regional Airport has been served by commercial carrier United Express through SkyWest Airlines, and the community response exceeded expectations almost from the start.
In late March, the city’s long-time Essential Air Service (EAS) carrier, Great Lakes Airlines, had suspended its commercial service, and the city was without commercial airline service for nearly five months.
During the first three months of 2018, Great Lakes reported 1,199 enplanements, Sobotta said. The remaining 8,900 or so passengers have come during United Express’ service in the final months of the year.
In October, the city announced that the 10,000-enplanement mark was within reach for 2018 and kicked off a “Fly Prescott 10K” campaign. Sobotta said the airline would reach the 9,000 mark today, Dec. 19.
More like this story
- Heavy traffic ahead at Prescott Regional Airport
- City hopes new airline will help boost passenger numbers
- 10,000-passenger mark within reach for Prescott Regional Airport, city says
- Design of new Prescott Airport terminal underway
- Prescott Airport reaches 9,000 enplanements; 10,000 passenger milestone, grants within reach