An airplane sits on the tarmac at the Steamboat Springs Airport on Monday afternoon.  Tonight's City Council meeting will include results from a study that says redeveloping the airport for other uses would be a money-losing venture for the city.

Photo by John F. Russell

An airplane sits on the tarmac at the Steamboat Springs Airport on Monday afternoon. Tonight's City Council meeting will include results from a study that says redeveloping the airport for other uses would be a money-losing venture for the city.

Airport studies complete

Redevelopment a costly option for Steamboat Springs

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Agenda

4 p.m. City Council convenes as the Steamboat Springs Redevelopment Authority to discuss projects at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area

5:20 p.m. City Council convenes as the local Liquor License Authority for a public hearing for a new tavern liquor license application for Heidi's Little Switzerland

5:30 p.m. Review of a study exploring alternative uses for the Steamboat Springs Airport; review of a study developing a master plan for the Steamboat Springs Airport; resolution adopting a master plan for the Steamboat Springs Airport

7 p.m. Public comment; review of the city's facilities plan; discussion of a timeline related to the city's vacation home rental ordinance; executive session to discuss a parcel within city limits

Airport redevelopment costs and benefits

(In millions)

Estimated closure costs $15.9 to $16.9

Estimated redevelopment costs $11.1

Estimated land value $7.4 to $9.2

Potential city subsidy required for redevelopment $6.7 to $9.5

photo

Full-time airport employee Don Heineman checks for incoming flights Monday afternoon at the Steamboat Springs Airport. Aviation activity at the Steamboat Springs Airport generates an estimated $1.2 million in payroll and $3.8 million in total output for the local economy.

— Redeveloping Steamboat Springs Airport for other uses would be a money-losing venture for the city, according to a report that will be presented to the Steamboat Springs City Council tonight.

Closure and redevelopment costs would outweigh the land value of the property to the tune of between $6.7 million and $9.5 million, according to a $100,000 study conducted by consultants Matrix Design Group.

The multimillion-dollar subsidy from the city that would be required to close and redevelop the airport is mostly the result of the costly demolition of airport facilities and grants the city would have to repay because it accepted them under contractual obligations that it would operate and maintain the airport.

The city's existing subsidies of the Steamboat Springs Airport is a criticism often cited by airport opponents. Matrix will report the subsidy averaged $242,000 a year from 2001 to 2006. But Matrix also predicts the airport will become a break-even operation for the city once the bonds for its terminal building are paid off in 2009.

The city leases the airport's terminal building to SmartWool. At $177,000 a year, the contract is the airport's largest revenue source. Commercial air service left the Steamboat Springs Airport in 1995.

Matrix's study was conducted among calls from some that the airport should be done away with. In addition to the subsidy argument, critics claim the airport provides little value to the general public and only serves the needs of a privileged few. Critics also say the airport's economic benefits are greatly overstated and that it's redundant and unnecessary because Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden can accommodate all of the region's aviation needs.

Supporters say the airport benefits the city economically by serving local businesses and attracting high-end residents and visitors. Matrix estimates the airport generates $1.2 million in payroll and $3.8 million in total output for the local economy, but that most of that would be transferred to YVRA, not lost, if it closed.

City Manager Alan Lanning predicted the airport debate would make for a lengthy meeting tonight.

"That's not had a full public airing for a long, long time," he said.

The airport, also known as Bob Adams Field, sits on 276 acres on a plateau about 190 feet above the city. The property constitutes the northwestern section of the city's urban growth boundary. In its study, Matrix considered alternative uses such as mixed-use development, housing, industrial uses, park and open space land and other recreational uses. Although its report shows redevelopment would mean a multimillion-dollar loss for the city, Matrix also notes some potential "intangible" benefits such as the opportunity to build affordable housing and the potential for an increased sales tax base.

Although grant repayments to the Federal Aviation Administration pose a daunting hurdle for any redevelopment of the airport, the city would have to get the FAA's approval to close the airport to even get to that point. Jack Dysart, co-chairman of the Steamboat Springs Airport Steering Committee, said the FAA would be less than cooperative.

"They view this as a viable airport and would resist any effort to close it," Dysart said.

In an August 2006 letter to Lanning, Craig Sparks of the Denver Airports District Office elaborated on the FAA's position.

"It is FAA's policy to strengthen the national airports system and not to support the closure of public airports," Sparks wrote. "The FAA has rarely approved an application to close an airport. Such approvals were only in highly unusual circumstances where closing the airport provided a benefit to civil aviation.

"Steamboat Springs Airport is a general aviation airport with 82 based aircraft and over 10,000 annual operations. This is a healthy activity level by any standard for a general aviation airport."

The steering committee was formed in 2006 to guide Matrix's study and a concurrent one to develop an update to the airport's master plan. Dysart said the seven-member committee - which comprises airport supporters, airport critics and neutral members - won't make any specific recommendations to City Council.

"The committee did feel that (Matrix's) findings were important and that they get a public hearing," Dysart said. "The committee isn't making any recommendation other than we think the input is good and the city should pay attention to it."

Co-chairman Michael Turner said the committee did not want its members' personal opinions to influence the work of an independent consultant.

"It is up to City Council, present and future, to decide what they want to do," Turner said.

In what Lanning said would be the "easy part" of tonight's discussion, City Council also will hear a report about the master plan study and be asked to pass a resolution adopting a master plan for the Steamboat Springs Airport. Armstrong Consultants conducted the master plan study at a cost of $216,000. All but $33,000 of that cost was paid for by federal and state grants. The study identifies $40 million in recommended improvements at the airport throughout the next 20 years, with all but $1 million covered by federal and state grants.

Turner said the city must have a master plan in place to qualify for FAA grants, but stressed that adopting the master plan does not obligate the city to do anything.

Comments

sickofitall 6 years, 5 months ago

Lets turn the terminal into affordable housing!

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id04sp 6 years, 5 months ago

If moving 82 aircraft to YVRA would require them to put in a tower AT FAA EXPENSE then it would be worth it.

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steamboatsprings 6 years, 5 months ago

I am glad to see that we are getting beyond the foolishness of the last couple of years where the powers that were looking to spend millions to challenge the FAA in a losing battle for the chance to lose even more by shutting the airport down. Let's focus on more pressing and productive uses for our city's resources.

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id04sp 6 years, 5 months ago

This whole airport issue is a case study in mismanagement.

The article states that any money lost from airport operations would simply be moved to YVRA. So, we don't really need an airport. There's another reason that has nothing to do with airplanes that will force the City to keep this thing open.

"The multimillion-dollar subsidy from the city that would be required to close and redevelop the airport is mostly the result of the costly demolition of airport facilities and grants the city would have to repay because it accepted them under contractual obligations that it would operate and maintain the airport."

This reminds me of the famous quote from Groucho Marx: "Paying alimony is like feeding hay to a dead horse."

The City mismanaged itself into this situation, and now must continue bearing the cost. The decision to build a new terminal building on an airport that could only handle ONE type of aircraft in commercial service at that time must go down as the dumbest decision made in this state since they left Ted Bundy alone in the courthouse library with an open window.

If Smart Wool ever pulls out, I suggest the City should convert the defunct terminal to a factory to build screen doors for submarines.

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OnTheBusGus 6 years, 5 months ago

If Smartwool leaves what will the city do with the building? More city employee housing? Since Smartwool is now corporate who is to say that Timberland won't decide that it is cheaper to operate somewhere else?

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coolerguy 6 years, 5 months ago

Add another half million per year if it is closed. Remember the go around a month or two ago when one of the jets was landing at yampa and another aircraft was on the runway? This is something you will do at an uncontrolled airport. I fly a Cessna and have done it many times. The question about adding a controller at yampa came up and the cost was about a half million a year. If you add the 82 aircraft at Bob Adams to yampa plan on the airlines insisting the controller be added to yampa because on the general aviation traffic.

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Geary Baxter 6 years, 5 months ago

...critics claim the airport provides little value to the general public and only serves the needs of a privileged few.

And what is the problem with serving a privileged few?

"Steamboat Springs Airport is a general aviation airport with 82 based aircraft and over 10,000 annual operations. This is a healthy activity level by any standard for a general aviation airport."

It looks like we are more than a "few". A control tower would rock!

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thecondoguy1 6 years, 5 months ago

The federal government has a stratigic plan of multiple airport locations around the United States in order to accomodate a national emergency, you don't think the feds put up the kind of money they have to make it sweet for a few of us to come and go nicely, nobody told the bird brains who ordered this study that................................

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coolerguy 6 years, 5 months ago

The tower may be at someone's expense, the half million each year to run it is paid for by the airport--not the FAA. That reads everyone in the valley. Both airports function well without a tower now. That might not be the case if Bob Adams is closed.

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elphaba 6 years, 5 months ago

Can we get over this non-issue - stop beating the horse that had two or three supporters before it died - represented the interests of a very few self-serving individuals - cost the taxpayers a needless $100,000 (that could have been spent on affordable housing or childcare) and get on with life now????? ----- Please!

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elphaba 6 years, 5 months ago

Where has Alan Lanning been? This community has discussed this issue to death forever........get over it!

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housepoor 6 years, 5 months ago

Just a matter of time before YVRA needs a tower. The reason for the $100,000 study...or any other of the numourous studies they do.......... so the CC can avoid making a decision

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thecondoguy1 6 years, 5 months ago

elpha, because you need housing and can't take care of your kids without help, we are supposed to focus on that, that is your trap, you figure that out, get a life now.....please, oh, and get over it..............

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thecondoguy1 6 years, 5 months ago

elpha, I apologize for being so harsh, I got my topics mixed up, still there are those of us who have raised our kids and struggled for our homes with no affordable housing, or child care hand outs, we did it on our own...... Still sorry for the rude above............

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elphaba 6 years, 5 months ago

Condoguy - you misread....I have sweet housing - which I paid for on my own with years of having two or three jobs and I raised my children here without "affordable" childcare either....They are great adults now. I have figured it out - have a life and am over it.

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Jetlink 6 years, 5 months ago

As both an avid general aviation pilot and a professional pilot, I can see both sides of this issue. Land prices are at a premium, housing isn't cheap, and there is this big piece of land that many view as a waste reserved for the elite few. I would be curious to see if it would even be feasible to lengthen the runway to a length in line with what many turbo props in the commercial airline world can safely get into and out of on a year round basis. What about the possibility of making the airport a sort of fly in community of sorts where the ability to keep the airport and put up housing around the perimeter of the airport.

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bubba 6 years, 5 months ago

Does anyone else question the merits of a study on the feasibility of re-developing a piece of land that considers the increased tax base an 'intangible?' It seems that tax revenues from a mixed use or industrial spot up there would be fundamental to any calculation of the feasibility of the city undertaking this, without that consideration, what did our 100k buy? an estimate of the FAA fee and demolition costs?

I don't really mind the airport in it's current use, but I will oppose an increased runway length to accomodate turbo props and/or small jets, due to the degradation of the city's air quality that will inevitably follow. Was that part of the study?

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Jetlink 6 years, 5 months ago

A lengthening of the runway to allow turbo props that the airlines use to get into and out of KSBS would not allow a proper load to be carried on the same size jet. Therefore, the only possible economic advantage when it comes to air service is a turbo prop, not a jet. And in regards to the comment about the degradation of the air quaility, I view that as a big misconception. Turbo props sip fuel compared to a jet, and actually pollute less than most of the semi rigs and other big trucks rolling through towns. I say this to inform, not instigate anything. Think of the convenience though that something like that might offer. No more having to drive the 40 some odd miles over to KHDN.

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id04sp 6 years, 5 months ago

Jetlink,

If you took geometry in high school, you should be able to look out past the end of the runway and get a feel for how many cubic yards (27 cu ft) of fill material would be required to build up the surrounding land to be level with the existing runway. Bear in mind that the runway would have to be closed while much of this work was going on.

A dump truck carries 8 to 12 yards of earth if I remember correctly.

An addition 100 feet wide at the top, 300 feet wide on the base and 50 feet deep would be 370 cubic yards per foot of runway extension. Add 1000 feet and that 370,000 cubic yards of material, hauled in upwards of 46,000 truck loads. The cost would be somewhere between $3 million and $6million just for the fill, and just for 1000 or 1500 or 2000 feet of extension. What does that really buy you in terms of additional aircraft that could serve us? Bear in mind that the airline has to be able to make money in the process, or they won't come.

We already know that, when it comes to a spanky new terminal building, "If you build it, they will come," does not apply. It's more like those south-sea islanders who built airplane effigies after WW-II, hoping to lure the soldiers and sailors back to the islands.

Maybe somebody with better current numbers on the cost of fill material, hauling, grading, etc., could give a better number.

All of that fill material would have to be hauled in through town, or down from North Routt, and be placed, compacted, graded, etc. The ultimate cost would be well in excess of any possible benefit to the city. It would be a lot cheaper for them to close the existing airport, pay the costs, and move the traffic out to YVRA.

We suffer from living in a town where there are many people who are so rich they are not concerned about the cost of anything, and many others who always want a discount on the back of the people who pay full price. The rest of us in the middle category are the ones who are hurt by the City and County spending our tax dollars on BS projects like the injustice center (which should have been funded by the State). We are the guys who have to re-budget when the assessments go up, or the rates change.

It's not much further from my house to Bob Adams Field than it is from Bob Adams to YVRA. What's the big deal? The only person that would have been inconvenienced to any measurable degree (the lady who commuted to Steamboat from San Jose by jet) by the extra distance died last year in a crash after taking off into icing conditions back east. As far as I know, she never offered to fund the airport extension, or moved in a company to provide high-paying jobs for locals, or any of that stuff. Why should people scraping to get by on tips have to pay taxes to extend a runway that would only benefit a few people, most of whom are far more affluent, and still be at the mercy of struggling airline companies as to whether or not we'd get service?

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Jetlink 6 years, 5 months ago

Well then, I guess it is a lose lose for eveyone... I whole heartedly agree that year in and year out, the locals who live here, myself included, should not have to shoulder the cost of the elite society. I foresee the airport slowly choking and thus becoming even more of a ghost town than it already is. I have only been in the parking lot of the airport as I either drive to Hayden or Denver to get to work. As for it being cheaper to close it and stomach the costs of shutting the airport down, you might be surprised at all the costs, court fees and such that the FAA has a habit of bringing against a closure of an airport if even done in the dark of the night. Might I suggest googling the closure of a certain Chicago airport on the lake shore? All those costs were brought against the city...paid for by the tax payers. It would just be cheaper to let the airport deteriorate to the point that nobody uses it and then close it.

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nofear 6 years, 5 months ago

Interesting debate id and Jet. I think one thing missing in the discussion is not just construction costs but the maintenance that all of us do pick up. The FAA fincances 90% of maintenance of the runway but the population foots the continuing bill. Growing the city airport would then mean additional staff, snowplows, admin costs. Will those costs be absorbed by only the users? No, and we all pay for BOTH airports' needs.

I'd have to agree with id on the expansion. At approximately $2.5M a mile, $3-6M would widen Highway 40 between 13th and Steamboat II. How many people would that benefit versus lengthening the runway of an airport that is limited by area, costs and need.

Concentrating on growing an already existing, 11,000 foot runwayed airport that brings in many tourist ski dollars makes a lot more sense to me.

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Jetlink 6 years, 5 months ago

But I have a feeling that Hayden will not get the improvements that would help it become a more reliable airport especially in winter months mainly from low visibility from both snow showers and blowing snow. Mainly what I am talking about is puting in an ILS that would allow all air carrier aircraft to stand a better chance of seeing the runway and thus being able to land. In order for that to happen, there needs to be a whole bunch of equipment installed, maintained, and then a control tower will have to be built and properly staffed and maintained as well. If I am not mistaken, the county would have to pick up much of that tab as well as the FAA. I would really like to see these improvments happen as they would make air travel not only more reliable, but much safer all at the same time. I say both as a resident, and pilot.

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