Our View: It sure beats a snack box
November 29, 2011
It's unfortunate Yampa Valley Regional Airport was unable to find a private operator for its new eatery, but airport and county officials ultimately did what was in the best interest of the community by hiring staff to run the restaurant.
The Three Wire Bar and Grill opened Monday in the main terminal at YVRA. The new restaurant is the result of Phase 3 of improvements at YVRA, the latest in a decade's worth of expansion and remodeling at the Hayden airport that provides commercial airline service to Routt County.
Food service has long been an issue at YVRA, culminating with last year's forced closure of a previous concessionaire because of failure to pay rent. The airport, which is operated by Routt County, struggled to find an immediate replacement before eventually using a Hayden caterer to operate food stands in both the secure and non-secure areas of the airport.
The completion of Three Wire Bar and Grill gives travelers their best eating option ever at YVRA. And with the operators of the restaurant — longtime local chef Dean Martin and former Freshies manager Tami Fricault — also staffing and stocking the airport's secure-area food stand, Airport Manager Dave Ruppel said outbound travelers always will have food service available to them. That's more important than many might think. The airport experience is often the first and last impression visitors have of their trip to Steamboat Springs. After tens of millions of dollars in improvements to YVRA in recent years, it would be illogical to stop short of providing decent food service in what otherwise has become a very good resort community airport.
It's important to note that none of the cost to upgrade the airport — including the construction and operation of the new restaurant — is borne by county taxpayers. Yampa Valley Regional Airport, although operated by Routt County, is a self-sufficient facility that doesn't draw from the county's general fund. Its revenues from landing fees, vendor contracts, in-airport advertising and other sources are enough to cover expenses, and the airport pays about $500,000 per year into the county's general fund to help cover administrative expenses, Ruppel said.
Martin, Fricault and other airport restaurant workers are county employees, but their salaries will be paid from Ruppel's airport budget. Ruppel is optimistic the new restaurant will be profitable. He said an annual review of the restaurant's success, or lack thereof, will enable airport officials and the county to head in a different direction if need be.
We share Ruppel's optimism, and we're thrilled that YVRA has a full-functioning restaurant that will make for a more pleasurable travel experience for airport users. And if Martin and Fricault are able to turn a profit out of the facility, any concerns about the lack of a private operator should be completely alleviated.