YVRA misses grant | SteamboatToday.com

YVRA misses grant

Funds would have added air service

Susan Cunningham

Yampa Valley Regional Airport missed out on a federal grant that officials hoped to put toward new off-season air service and improvements at the terminal.

Andy Wirth, vice president of sales and marketing for the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., said missing out on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Small Community Air Service Development Pilot Program is a “temporary setback.”

“While we’ve basically failed in this effort to secure federal funds to support summer air service, we’re not done,” Wirth said. “We’re still very, very focused on supplementing our air service.”

Routt County asked for $625,000 from the program, which would have been matched by $225,000 in local funds, Wirth said.

One portion of the grant application sought $375,000 to accelerate terminal improvements at the airport. The other portion sought $250,000 to help underwrite new flights during spring, summer and fall at the airport. Half would have been used for direct service to and from Houston on Continental Airlines, and half would have been used for direct service to and from Salt Lake City on Delta Airlines. Presently, YVRA offers service to and from Denver on United Express.

Continental Airlines has proposed a $200,000 cap for its minimum revenue guarantee for the Houston flights. Minimum revenue guarantees are funds the business community pledges to ensure the flights are profitable. The business community already makes such pledges for several jet flights during ski season.

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Wirth said the cap for the Continental flights was reasonable compared with other nearby small airports and that local officials would continue to go after one additional daily flight in the summer. That flight likely will be Continental service to and from Houston, Wirth said, but officials are looking at other carriers.

“The goal would be to have things solidified by December so we could announce the spring, summer and fall flights in December,” Wirth said.

Partnerships formed through work with the Steamboat Chamber and Resort Association, the city of Steamboat Springs and Routt County as well as the new Yampa Valley Airport Commission will help accomplish that goal, Wirth said.

“Everybody is aimed at the same direction,” Wirth said. “Everybody has agreed that we need to supplement spring, summer and fall air service.”

Jet service during non-ski months would benefit the area in multiple ways, Wirth said.

It would make Steamboat Springs and Routt County more competitive in the overall resort market and would bring a desirable guest to town during the summer — one that is less likely to drive because he or she will be flying, Wirth said.

The jet service would add competition to the market in terms of prices on flights into the airport, he said. Finally, it would help retain and attract other non-tourism business, making the area more desirable to new residents.

All of the benefits make it certain that even without the federal grant, local officials will pursue adding the jet service during spring, summer and fall, Wirth said.

This is the second time officials have sought an Air 21 grant. Last year’s grant request also did not make the cut.

The Department of Transportation received 170 grant proposals seeking more than $104 million in assistance. Grants were awarded to 35 communities or consortiums for a total of almost $20 million.

The only grant received by a Colorado group was for $200,000 for a Gunnison and Crested Butte project for year-round service in a market that is now served on a seasonal basis.

“We were disappointed about this, but that’s the way it goes sometimes,” Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said. “We knew that it was going to be a real tough playing field.”

Officials already are thinking about applying for a grant in next year’s program, she said.

— To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com