Our View: Smooth landing for YVRA | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Smooth landing for YVRA

Eleven years of work came to a ceremonial conclusion this past week when 200 or so people turned out at Yampa Valley Regional Airport for an official "grand re-opening" of the airport that serves all of Northwest Colorado. It was a fitting tribute to those whose perseverance has resulted in a first-rate regional airport of significant economic importance to our valley.

To put into perspective how far YVRA has come in the past decade, it's important to remember where it was. Just 10 years ago, YVRA had a dirt and gravel parking lot for long-term parking and was forced to rent a large party tent to shield departing passengers from the weather while they waited outside to check in to their flights. It wasn't exactly the impression a resort community wanted to leave with vacationers spending thousands of dollars to come to Steamboat Springs for a week of skiing. Similarly, it wasn't an inviting experience for location-neutral professionals and others considering whether to invest in our community.

Fortunately, county officials took a risk in the early 2000s and pushed ahead with the first of three phases of work at YVRA. The $1.1 million Phase 1 included expansion of the terminal, creating new ticketing, baggage check-in and screening areas. Two years later, in 2005, Phase 2 work began. That $15.8 million portion of the project included a 23,500-square-foot expansion of the terminal and expanded aircraft parking for Boeing 757s. The parking lot finally was paved, with automatic payment gates that tripled annual parking revenues.

Finally, in 2010, the $9.3 million Phase 3 began, adding a second baggage carousel, second-story offices and a main-level, full-service restaurant. The work was completed late last year, clearing the way for last week's celebration.

It's significant that of the $26.2 million spent on YVRA improvements during the past decade, only about 10 percent was paid by Routt County. The bulk of the funds came from federal and state grants.

Also significant is the value of the airport to all of Northwest Colorado, and Steamboat Springs in particular. YVRA is the sixth-busiest commercial airport in the state, bringing in 108,000 passengers in 2011. It's an essential cog in the machine that brings destination visitors from across the globe to Routt County every winter. Of course, the airport also provides a means of connecting location-neutral businesspeople, full-time residents and part-time residents with the rest of the world, allowing them to remain important investors of time and money in our communities.

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Kudos to past and present Routt County commissioners, county managers, airport managers, executives like Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.'s Janet Fischer and the Yampa Valley Airport Commission for their foresight and dedication to the airport and its decade-long transformation into a facility we should all be proud of.

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