New, larger airport opens doors

New, larger airport opens doors

By Michael Christensen

Published: Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Airport

Chris Caldwell
A worker at the new St. George airport guides in one of the first planes to land. Safety, size and functionality were among the top priorities in the $159 million project.

The flight paths have shifted and opportunity opens in many ways as St. George City transitions from the old airport to the new SGU municipal airport.
Last Wednesday Mayor Dan McArthur and airport VIP’s cut the ribbon at the dedication of the new St. George (SGU) Municipal Airport. Washington County residents are not only pleased with the functionality of the new airport, but also with the scenic location.
“I love the new location,” said Jack Stewart from Hurricane. “The scenery nearby is astounding.”
Safety was first in mind when choosing a location for the new airport said Marc Mortensen, assistant to the city manager. The area needed to have enough room to have a wider and longer runway to be able to land large commercial jets and airplanes safely, even during inclement weather. The wind direction was also an important factor. The old airport location atop a mesa often had strong crosswinds that made it difficult for aircrafts to take off and land.
The City of St. George developers looked at 15 different sites to build the airport in Washington County, Arizona and even in Iron County. The location where city officials chose to build the airport did not fall in St. George City limits. The location was annexed from Washington County to fall into the city limits of St. George, Mortensen said.
With safety being top priority, the new airport better follows the rules of the Federal Aviation Administration.
“The new airport meets all of the FAA safety standards,” Mortensen said. “The old airport did not meet all of the FAA standards.”
The total cost of the new airport is estimated at $159 million. The federal government, including the FAA, issued grants totaling $126 million. The remaining $33 million in funding came from Washington County transient room tax, St. George City transportation, and water and sewer taxes. No other taxes were used to fund the city’s financial obligation for the new airport, Mortensen said.
Although the new airport is larger in size, the airport staff will not increase as of now.
“The same operation will occur from the existing airport,” Mortensen said. “The operational budget will increase, but not the staff.”
At the old airport there was no fee to park. Parking at the new airport is free until July 1. After July 1 all parking will be $4 per day with the first hour free.
According to www.flysgu.-com. the location of the new airport is nearly five times larger than the location of the old airport. Having 1,203 acres gives developers a lot to work with.
“With more area at the new airport it gives us more opportunity to develop hundreds of acres inside the fence of the airport,” Mortensen said. “Outside of the fence we have room to develop over a thousand acres.”
Washington County citizens are excited about the new flights at the airport.
“I think this new airport will be great for Washington County,” said Hollie Turner from Santa Clara. “Hopefully there will be more destinations to travel to soon.”
SkyWest Airlines announced there will be round trip flights to the Los Angeles International Airport starting March 6. The new flight will operate six days a week and will bring direct access to the West Coast and United Airlines’ global network. Mortensen said they are currently working on scheduling flights to and from Denver, San Francisco and Phoenix.
The old airport has been decommissioned as of last Thursday. For the next two months the old airport will only be used for the takeoff of private planes that are left in the private hangars. No landings will be allowed at the new airport site. The land on the mesa is owned by the city and is up for sale.
“I think the new airport will have a positive impact on the students,” said Amanda Midgley, a sophomore communication major from Sandy. “It will make air travel more accessible, which will also make DSC more appealing to future students.”

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