Completion of Yampa Valley Regional Airport project a year away |

Completion of Yampa Valley Regional Airport project a year away

Improvements slated for completion in 12 months; winter preparations under way

Mike Lawrence

— In about a year, Dean Smith said, Yampa Valley Regional Airport will look very different than it does now.

It'll look very different in a few weeks, too, when winter travel season is in full swing and crowds throng the Hayden airport's terminal. But the terminal was empty and quiet last week — like a sports stadium the night before a game — and Smith, the airport's assistant manager, had a longer view in mind.

YVRA is in the middle of a $6.8 million project that, when completed, will include a new restaurant, an expanded baggage claim area and a second story on the main terminal building. It's the third and final phase of massive improvements that began in summer 2003 and have overhauled the Yampa Valley's biggest travel hub.

Smith said the multi-year improvement project, all of it, is slated for completion in time for the 2011-12 ski season.

This winter, interior work will continue on the new, ground-floor restaurant in the heart of the airport's terminal. Rex Brice, owner of four Steamboat Springs restaurants, said he's the "operations consultant" for the new eatery.

He said the restaurant is slated to open in about a year and will offer full-service, sit-down meals along with a grab-and-go format. Brice described the food as "whimsical American fare" that will be "spins on classic dishes you've grown up with," featuring locally grown foods.

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"It's really important that we put an operation in that facility that really adds value to the airport and is really something that meets the needs of people coming through there," Brice said Sunday. He said the restaurant's interior will reflect the Yampa Valley's mining and ranching heritage.

Brice said operation of the restaurant will be opened for proposals next year. Its revenues and expenses will be YVRA's. Brice and Smith said they'll be open to suggestions from the public about a name for the restaurant.

Construction at YVRA will move back outdoors in spring.

In April, after the end of ski season, the space between the existing security checkpoint area and baggage claim area will be extended 10 feet toward the apron, Smith said, and a second story will be added for offices and a conference room.

"It's really exciting to be here when all this is happening," Smith said. "We're getting to be a big airport."

The first phase of YVRA improvements included a 4,300-square-foot terminal expansion at a cost of $832,000, with about 90 percent federal funding. The second phase included reorganization and paving of the airport's parking lots and passenger departure and arrival zones, an expansion of the airport apron to accommodate heavy Boeing 757s, and a 23,500-square-foot terminal addition. Phase 2 cost about $16 million, also with significant federal dollars.

U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., said last week that nearly $18 million in federal funding has gone to YVRA since he was first elected to Congress in 2004. Funds provided by the Colorado De­­partment of Trans­portation also have contributed to YVRA improvements.

This winter, Smith said, travelers at the airport can expect facilities at a scope that are equal to or better than a year ago. An additional security check-in lane and new scanner will be up and running by Nov. 19, he said.

He cautioned travelers to arrive at YVRA two hours before their departure time, emphasizing the fact that ticketing check-in shuts down 30 minutes before departure and airport lines can be long in the winter.

"There's no­­where, anywhere, anymore that you don't have to be there at least an hour early," he said. "In the wintertime especially, be here at least two hours ahead of time."

The terminal that was empty last week soon will be a daily zoo, Smith said.

"This place is pandemonium from 10:30 in the morning to 2:30 in the afternoon," he said. "On a real busy day, we can get 2,000 (people) in and 2,000 out."

— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4233 or e-mail

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