Terminal at Stead Airport wins approval
Rob Sabo, 10/15/2012
A long-planned terminal for the Reno-Stead Airport took a big step closer to fruition last week when the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority board approved construction of a $6 million, 12,000-square foot facility.
Supporters of the facility say it’s the last missing link to transform the formerly drab and dusty Army airstrip that opened during World War II into a catalyst for new businesses eyeing land just north of Reno.
Plans for a terminal Stead first cropped up in 2006 as the airport authority conducted an update for its master plan. At that time, the airport proposed a 19,000-square-foot terminal building. The airport authority board last Thursday voted to approve construction of a two-story terminal building to be designed by H+K Architects and built by Q&D Construction.
The new terminal will consist of a large public meeting area, a pilot’s lounge, administrative offices, an emergency operations center and an observation deck. Brian Kulpin, vice president of marketing and public affairs for the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority, says the RTAA has invested upwards of $45 million in improvements to upgrade runways, lighting systems and other flight-related infrastructure at the Stead airport, but there’s simply no infrastructure to serve customers and guests.
“When you look at Stead, that is an import piece of land, and there is a lot of room for development,” Kulpin says. “We have terrific infrastructure for the airfield, but we don’t have a focal point for customer service or customer accommodations. This is a project that has been under way to modernize Stead, and it is very important for the economic development in the North Valleys.”
The Stead airport already is linked to a north-south railroad and also has an arterial freeway located just a few miles away, notes Tom Gribbin, past chair of the airport authority and a 12-year board member.
Even without a terminal, the Stead airport contributes significantly to the regional economy, says Tom Hall, president of the Stead Airport User’s Group. Hall cites a study authored in August by Kambiz Raffiee of the Center for Regional Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Business that says the Stead airport generates upwards of $190 million in annual revenue for the local economy, part of the $2 billion in annual revenues generated by Reno-Tahoe International Airport.
“The airport terminal will be a gateway to Stead,” Hall says. “We need a building with a proper entry, symbols and signage to welcome people to Stead.”
Construction of the new facility — the project has to be re-bid by H+K and Q&D since their original bid packages expired before the project was approved last week — would take roughly 10 months to complete. The terminal is to be financed from subordinate lien airport revenue notes, with the debt service to be paid by airport system revenues, the airport authority board says.
The addition of a new terminal can’t come soon enough for Jack Suierveld, owner of Ace Aviation flight school in Stead. Suierveld says he simply cannot grow his business without the additional facilities and infrastructure proposed at the Stead airport.
“To grow, I need a facility where I can lease space for classrooms. A bigger facility means better business, more fuel sales, and more corporate people flying in and out of that airport with larger aircraft. It is important to grow that airport and not sit still,” he says.
In addition to a rise in corporate and private air traffic, the new terminal could lead to additional services such as food and maintenance service providers taking space at the airport.
Gribbin says land at the Stead airport is premium property that could prove attractive to a number of new businesses.
“The smart money is going to start looking at places to develop, and this certainly is a place to develop,” he says.
Only trustee Steve Katzmann of the Reno Tahoe Airport Authority dissented on approval of the project. It would be more prudent, Katzmann said, to receive letters of intent and commitment from businesses interested in locating to the Stead area before moving forward with construction of the terminal.