Cost of replacing Vista Field jumps, would be $20.5M

A new study says it would cost more than $20.5 million to replace Vista Field Airport - up from an estimate of $12 million in March.

Port of Kennewick commissioners are to discuss the final installment of the two-part Vista Field Airport Siting Study today.

The study was ordered by the port as part of a review of Vista Field's future. City officials and others have suggested the airport should be relocated because the property is potential prime commercial and residential land and because the airport limits nearby development as well.

The $25,000 study, done by J-U-B Engineers of Kennewick, provides the numbers, said Tim Arntzen, the port's executive director. But he said finding money to move the airport is the biggest concern.

The port doesn't qualify for federal airport grant funding and state funding may be limited to $150,000 annually, the report says.

Arntzen said port officials want the decision-making process to be fair and open. In 2003, port commissioners agreed to keep the airport, which is used by business and recreational users, open until 2021.

After losing $30,000 a year in the past, Vista Field is projected to make a profit of $5,000 this year, Arntzen said.

Dan Cryer, the port's director of operations and airport manager, said the airport has about 14,000 landings and take-offs annually. Also, 35 aircraft are based there, he said.

Arntzen said some believe the 90-acre airport property could be better developed in a way that would expand the city's tax base. Others have questioned if Kennewick even needs a general-aviation airport.

Retail and residential use would be the best possible uses of the property, said Kevin Ferguson, executive director of corporate and community services for the city of Kennewick. He added that building height restrictions near the airport also have chased off some potential developers, and there are concerns about safety because areas surrounding the airport have grown a lot in the past decade.

The Kennewick Irrigation District, Kennewick General Hospital and Kennewick also own land in or near Vista Field.

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