LOVELAND – Hailing it as a facility that will be “Northern Colorado’s living room,” officials broke ground Thursday for a $22 million,19,400-square-foot, two-gate terminal at Northern Colorado Regional Airport that they hope will usher in the return of scheduled airline service.
Airport commission chairman Don Overcash likened development of the airport to a jigsaw puzzle, noting that until critical pieces are “identified and locked into place, it’s really difficult to fill out the rest of the puzzle.
“Commissions over the years have identified three critical pieces for the airport to become a leading economic driver and service agency for Northern Colorado,” he said. “Those pieces, not in specific order, are an airport terminal, widening of the runways and the virtual tower.”
With the groundbreaking, he said, all those pieces are falling into place to make the airport a viable alternative to Denver International Airport.
“I’m not asking for patience anymore. We’re now building,” Overcash said. “Soon we’re going to be able to fly from Loveland to places like Steamboat [Springs] or Phoenix or Vegas or Dallas or Houston and not have to go through that mess of DIA.”
Beginning Monday, according to interim airport director David Ruppel, Greeley-based Hensel Phelps Construction will begin building the terminal, which is being paid for with $16.9 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act dollars, plus $2 million from the airport’s budget, $1.6 million from a Federal Aviation Administration grant and $1 million each from the cities of Fort Collins and Loveland, who jointly own the airport. Officials hope the terminal project, coupled with the FAA-financed experimental remote tower project and expansion of the main runways from 100 to 150 feet wide will position the airport to attract a fixed-route airline to Northern Colorado, which it hasn’t had since the loss of Allegiant Air, Elite Airways and Avelo Air.
Ruppel said the terminal should be completed and open by the end of 2024.
“The new terminal is going to provide greater operations for air travel, with increased capacity, improved accessibility, better amenities and greater sustainability,” Overcash said. “It’s an investment that benefits the entire region, that elevates the role of this airport from just general aviation to commercial, business and general aviation.”
Overcash credited previous commissions and city councils for laying the groundwork for the new terminal. “We’re just the ones capitalizing on the opportunity. We get to turn the dirt,” he said, “but the master plan for the airport has been under development for the past 10 years.”
He noted that Northern Colorado Regional Airport “generates approximately $296 million annually in economic impact and supports more than 1,000 jobs,” and added that about 850,000 people live within 30 miles of the airport.
Fort Collins Mayor Jeni Arndt, who serves on the airport’s governing commission, pointed out that the original terminal was constructed in 1989 before Transportation Security Administration monitoring was required, and that TSA security now takes up half the space in the old terminal.
Chris Aronson, principal at Fort Collins-based Vaught Frye Larson Aronson Architects, said the terminal was designed to be “a place where adventure begins, where relationships reunite, where we say hello, where we say goodbye, and also where we say welcome home – where all these human experiences culminate.”
Through a series of charrettes with stakeholders and community members, Aronson said, the facility was designed with the goals of being “community focused, welcoming, family friendly, hassle free and easy to navigate, adaptable and expandable for future growth, sustainable and energy efficient, a gateway to the region and showcase for the majestic Rocky Mountains, and a gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park.
“This is Northern Colorado’s living room,” he said, “where people can come and go and feel at home.”
Added Colorado-based FAA engineer Todd Minnich, “We’re excited to give you guys another way to get out and see the rest of the world. I’ll be excited to come back here next year and cut a ribbon.”