At Branson, Up Goes A Terminal

On May 5, Branson Airport LLC inked a $9.8 million contract with DeWitt & Associates, Inc., of nearby Springfield to construct a 58,000-square foot commercial airline terminal, one capable of handling up to 1.4 million passengers annually. It’s one of the final steps the privately funded airport is undertaking as it prepares to open next May to low-cost carriers and business aviation. Branson Airport LLC directs the project and will operate the fixed base operation, which it’s building. The City of Branson will pay a per passenger tourist fee to the airport, which still has some issues to iron out with FAA. Meanwhile, not far away, West Branson is building its own municipal airport.

The 900-acre regional airport had originally been slated to open in 2006, building on the area’s dramatic growth in tourism. However, raising funds for the $155 million project took longer than expected, say officials. To date, some eleven million cubic yards have been moved in what’s billed as Missouri’s largest earthmoving project. The airfield will feature a 7,140x50-foot concrete runway and parallel taxiway, a business aviation terminal, and a commercial terminal. The initial target is 250,000 annual enplanements.

The effort is headed up by CEO Stephen Peet, and last October Jeffrey Bourk, A.A.E., was brought on board as the airport’s executive director. He had previously served as deputy director at the Portland (ME) International Jetport.

Comments Bourk, “We’re a private business, not a municipality. We’re selling the naming rights to the FBO, the airport, and the terminal. We’ve got interested parties and are in the process of negotiating. They’re not aviation companies; they’re companies based in the Midwest who feel they could benefit from having that exposure.”

Bourk says interest in the new airport has been brisk, both by business aviation and low-cost airlines. “They’re very interested in this market,” he says, calling the market unstimulated. He points out that some 650 tourists per day visit from the Dallas Metroplex, but most apparently drive.

The airport has a pay-for-performance agreement with the City of Branson by which the latter will pay $8.42 to the airport for each non-resident passenger. There will also be a passenger facility fee, which the airport would like to see treated as a PFC in terms of ticket billing. It is one of several issues to work out with FAA. The airport will seek to have its control tower operated under FAA’s contract tower program.

“We’ve completed the benefit/cost study for the tower and we far exceed the benefit/cost ratio to qualify under the program,” says Bourk.

Meanwhile, the city of West Branson is building its own $16 million, 200-acre municipal airport with 5,000-foot runway to serve general aviation. It is scheduled to open later this year.