The pattern of a chain link fence obscures the view of private airplanes sitting on the tarmac at Steamboat Springs Airport. Two retired business executives, Mike Forney and Rich Lowe, are preparing to write a business plan for the airport beginning by surveying business people and public officials on their attitudes about the airport.

Photo by John F. Russell

The pattern of a chain link fence obscures the view of private airplanes sitting on the tarmac at Steamboat Springs Airport. Two retired business executives, Mike Forney and Rich Lowe, are preparing to write a business plan for the airport beginning by surveying business people and public officials on their attitudes about the airport.

Business plan in the works for Steamboat Springs Airport

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— Steamboat Springs Airport notched a couple of notable accomplishments in 2010 when the last $40,000 payment on the bonded indebtedness for the terminal construction was made, and again in December when the city reached agreement with a Denver developer to build six to nine aircraft hangars.

“It’s a big milestone, and now it’s time to ask, ‘What do we do next?’” Steamboat Springs Public Works Director Philo Shelton said.

Two retired business executives are preparing to answer that question. Mike Forney, a private pilot, and Rich Lowe are getting ready to write a business plan for the airport beginning by surveying local business people and public officials on their attitudes about the airport.

Retiring the indebtedness on the terminal coupled with income from annual lease payments of about $220,000 from SmartWool helped the airport break even or better in 2010, Shelton said. The airport had $846,000 in revenues last year against about $786,000 in expenses: $517,000 for operations and $269,000 for staff. The net revenues could change as late bills arrive.

“That’s significant when you consider fuels sales have dropped substantially and people are flying less,” Forney said. Steam­­boat Springs Airport saw about $414,000 in fuel sales last year.

Interim City Manager Wen­­dy DuBord said she thinks the airport hasn’t been in the black “for a very long time.”

“Was the airport ever in the black? Sure, it was well into the black when we had commercial airline service,” DuBord said. “But I do not believe we’ve run in the black since we lost airline service. I think we could have been in the black had we not had debt service.”

One of the questions to be explored in a new business plan is whether there’s sufficient demand to install an automated 24-hour fueling facility at a cost of as much as $200,000.

“Questions that need to be asked are, ‘Who will own future hangars? Should we privatize the (fixed-based operator)? Should we create more room for SmartWool by building a separate FBO?’ These are decisions City Council has to make,” Forney said. “And without a business plan, every decision will be reactive.”

The airport’s fixed-base operator provides services such as fuel sales and general amenities. Discussions about future operators will be part of the airport’s business plan.

What terminal?

For Steamboat Springs residents who didn’t recall that the Steamboat airport has a terminal, it’s necessary to go back to 1993, when the new facility was dedicated. At the time, Steamboat saw daily flights to and from Denver on Continental Express. Barely a year later, Continental pulled out. The airport was served briefly by Maverick Airlines, but ultimately the terminal was vacated until SmartWool based its business there.

DuBord said the city would have paid off the bonds sooner but went through several refinancings to reduce the overall interest payments.

The Steamboat airport has 43 hangars with a waiting list of 15, Shelton said. The city reached agreement in December with Michael E. Dunn, of Avi­ation Development Group in Denver, to build six to nine hangars during the next two years. ADG would sell the hangars, and the airport would profit from the ground leases. There’s room to build 80 to 90 new hangars someday, Shelton said.

The city undertook a Federal Aviation Administration-man­­dated update to its master plan with Arm­­strong Con­­sultants in 2008. That plan included recommendations on how the airport could become more financially independent, including the construction of hangars and a 600-foot runway expansion. The latter would help the high-elevation airport sell more fuel by allowing pilots to take off from its 4,400-foot runway with full loads. It would also make it a safer airport, Forney said.

The smaller nearby communities of Meeker and Kremmling have 6,400- and 7,000-foot runways. Adding 1,200 feet to the runway is estimated to cost $10 million Forney said, but the expectation is that the FAA would pay for 95 percent of it.

No decision to enlarge the runway has been made, Forney said, but he and Lowe want to give local leaders the information they need to make informed decisions about the future of the airport and how best to leverage the asset.

“The whole purpose of writing a business plan is to answer the question, ‘Where do you want to be in five years?’” Forney said.

Comments

bigfatdog 3 years, 3 months ago

photographer could't take a second to walk around chain link fence???

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Steve Lewis 3 years, 3 months ago

Hi Mike F., This may run against the current use and culture of the airport facility, but members in each of the soaring clubs near Ft. Collins and in Boulder expressed a sincere interest in coming to tow out of Steamboat. The attraction to Steamboat stems mainly from excellent soaring potential, but also from the amenities their families would enjoy here.

Such visits typically occur in the form of "camps" where the clubs' membership comes in for 3-4 days of flying. Earlier test days of soaring at Steamboat found this to be an ideal location with Copper Ridge offering abundant and nearby lift for soaring.

There are other clubs in Colorado that would likely desire camps here. The two mentioned are simply ones I had joined. To my knowledge a taxiway would be needed for staging, but these fellows are used to taxi-ing on grass. Another obstacle may be that they use the typical downwind leg/box pattern for landing, while current traffic does not.

Something to consider. Seems like there's some decent economic benefit in adding soaring to the list of reasons to visit Steamboat.

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weststmbtres 3 years, 3 months ago

Why would the federal government kick in 95% of the 10 Million when our airport just finished its first year in the black and only by 60K, Imagine that. And we wonder why we're struggling to find ways to cut the national debt and deficit. In addition, the numbers for the upgrade presented here presented here still leaves the city with a $500,000.00 burden.

This part is speculative because I don't have the balance sheets from the airport in front of me. If the airport operated in the red for 15 years how was the funding generated to keep it operating. I'm assuming the taxpayers and city made up the difference. Maybe the airport should repay the city before we rush out and do 10 Million in upgrades.

Talk about government handouts.

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exduffer 3 years, 3 months ago

Steve, Steve, Steve.. where do we start in explaining what is wrong with that?

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Steve Lewis 3 years, 3 months ago

ex, How about you start by explaining what is wrong with that.

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exduffer 3 years, 3 months ago

$9.5 million for how many users? 500 TOs a year x what? $100 per, 200, 300? How long would it take the FAA to recoup? Lets say you multiply the fuel sales (notice I say sales) 5X, how long would it take the FAA to recoup in taxes and fees? What are the additional maintenance costs(to the city not the FAA)? How about when we have to go begging back to the feds to repave our rich mans playground? How about using that 9.5 to help out YVRA which has an economic benefit in the valley? How about...

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exduffer 3 years, 3 months ago

How about the city pleads with FedEx to build whatever they want and PLEASE bring your distribution center here?

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Steve Lewis 3 years, 3 months ago

exduffer, I think you have my post confused with something said in the article. I was suggesting we allow towing of sailplanes from the field, which shouldn't cost a dime as far as I can tell.

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exduffer 3 years, 3 months ago

I apologize lewi. When I re-read your post I realize I was wrong to rant at you.

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sledneck 3 years, 3 months ago

Don't worry exduffer, Knowing lewi you could expect something "rantable" any minute. We can call it a "premptive rant".

However lewi, I must say that I find myself agreeing with your idea. I guess even a stopped clock is right twice/ day. I'm just not sure whether it's my clock or yours. Hmmmm

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pitpoodle 3 years, 3 months ago

Oh for Pete sake! Please, no more handouts to the small number of users at the SBS Airport. If the users want hundreds of thousand of dollars to expand the airport, how about the users raise the money themselves? Many residents told the (then) city council that the only plane that could possibly land there was going to be discontinued but they wouldn't listen and voted for the new expensive terminal by one vote (thanks Loui Antonucci). Sure enough the airline pulled out, leaving us high and dry. The new terminal was soon after used to house a sock factory. After one year in the black, they want to expand and take the money from legitimate city needs. Who will pay for this? Taxpayers. Hey, how about a city property tax to pay for it? Please, no more stupid stuff.

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pitpoodle 3 years, 3 months ago

One more thing, ‘What do we do next?’” Steamboat Springs Public Works Director Philo Shelton said. Let us keep in mind that Shelton was one of city staffers who did not think there was anything wrong with residents picking up the tab to furnish water and sewer improvements for SB 700 developers - to be paid for with other people's money. What do we do next? Stop spending other people's money like it is yours.

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 3 months ago

Steve Lewis, Your letter does not make clear whether soaring camps could be currently held here or whether investment is needed. Would a grass taxiway require doing anything more than mowing? Would the airport have to do anything to support a different flight pattern for soaring?


An airport with $414,000 in annual fuel sales sounds like a pretty lightly used airport. What the comparison with Kremmling and Meeker fails to mention is that neither is 20 miles from another airport with a 10,000 foot runway.

It makes far more sense to focus airport investment into the large regional airport (YVRA) that supports jets and so on. Bob Adams Field should be operated on the principle that it is what it is and not be the focus of speculative investment that could become a drain on the city budget.

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