Redeveloping airport could cost nearly $30 million | SteamboatToday.com

Redeveloping airport could cost nearly $30 million

Brandon Gee

Airplane mechanic Dan Ingram walks out of a hangar to work on a Cessna I82 plane based out of the Steamboat Springs Airport. A report released last week stated that it would cost between $20 and $30 million if the city decided to close the airport and redevelop the land where it is located.

— Any redevelopment of the Steamboat Springs Airport for an alternative use would face daunting hurdles, not the least of which are costs that could approach nearly $30 million.

Consultants Matrix Design Group discussed the potential redevelopment of the airport in a recent presentation to the Steamboat Springs Airport Steering Committee and public.

Matrix was commissioned by the city to do a $100,000 study of alternate uses for the Steamboat Springs Airport, also known as Bob Adams Field. The final report is expected in February.

The airport sits on 276 acres on a plateau approximately 190 feet above the city. The property constitutes the northwestern section of the city’s urban growth boundary. Alternative use options considered by Matrix include mixed-use development, industrial land, park and open space land and a potential sports facility to satisfy a request by Triple Crown, the sports tournament company that hosts baseball tournaments in Steamboat each summer.

Noting what a controversial political issue Triple Crown is, steering committee member Bill Jameson encouraged Matrix to abandon the consideration of a sports complex.

“You may have just gone nuclear,” Jameson said.

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The consultants noted that Steamboat’s greatest market demands are for affordable housing and for mixed-use development similar to the Steamboat 700 project west of the city that is in its preliminary stages.

Whatever would replace the airport, Matrix has identified several challenges to redevelopment, including:

– Water pressure at the site is inadequate to support fire flow

– The presence of a former landfill site at the airport

– An already stressed road system

– The expensive demolition of airport facilities

Add to everything the expensive repayment of grants to the Federal Aviation Administration that would be required to close the airport, and Matrix estimates the preliminary financial implications of redevelopment to the city at $21.91 to $28.6 million.

“Clearly, they identify there’s going to be a lot of expenses associated with reclaiming that land,” Transportation Director George Krawzoff said. “In my opinion, it’s still a mixed bag.”

Krawzoff noted that the estimated costs mean the city would essentially be paying about $90,000 an acre for the land. That’s approximately double what the developers of Steamboat 700 paid per acre for their development on an adjacent site.

Matrix noted that the city could argue that YVRA constitutes a replacement airport if Steamboat Springs Airport is closed. Using that logic, the city could take much of the money it would owe the FAA and transfer it to Routt County for use at YVRA. Krawzoff said keeping that money in the region is an appealing consideration.

“If that money just leaves the community, that’s certainly a different story,” Krawzoff said.

Matrix’s study is being conducted among calls from some that the airport should be done away with. Critics claim the airport provides little value to the general public and only serves the needs of a privileged few; its city subsidies are too high; its economic benefits are greatly overstated; and it is redundant and unnecessary because Yampa Valley Regional Airport 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 visitors.

Local aviator and Yampa Valley Airport Commission member Mike Forney said he was disappointed that Matrix’s presentation didn’t include any assessment of the economic value of the airport to the community. And since city subsidies are an oft-cited criticism of the airport, he also hoped to see those costs to the city quantified and compared to the ongoing costs that would be associated with the alternative uses.

“I hope the final report in February will have a lot more actionable information in it,” Forney said.

Redevelopment costs

Preliminary financial implications of redeveloping Steamboat Springs Airport (in millions)

Demolish airside facilities $1.6

Demolish landside facilities $1.25

Extend/loop water service $0.575

Install water storage tank $1.05

Expand sewer system $6.125

Expand roadway capacity $1 to $5 a mile

Remediate site TBD

Hangar lease buyout $1 (or more)

Airport replacement/grant payback $10.41 to $12

Total $21.91 to $28.6