An airport or an albatross?

Q. Why do we need two airports within 20 miles of each other? Should we shut down the Steamboat airport?

A. As a community, we need to re-evaluate the roles of both airports. The last time this was done was the community survey of 1992 before Continental Express ended its flights into Steamboat. Any long-range business plan needs periodic review and adjustment.

I propose the City Council appoint a citizens committee to hold public meetings and solicit input from Steamboat Springs residents. Questions generated might come from several general areas:

Redundancy What other resort communities in Colorado have a local airport and a regional airport 20 miles apart, and what are the roles of each? What services does Steamboat Springs Airport provide that Yampa Valley Regional Airport can’t?

Economics Does Steamboat Springs Airport pay for itself including all bonds and operational costs? Haymaker golf course, voted on by the people, pays its entire bond debt and operating costs and is building a reserve. The city of Steamboat Springs contributes to both Steamboat Springs Airport and YVRA. Can we afford both? Does maintaining Steamboat Springs Airport hurt YVRA? Will general aviation expansion at Steamboat Springs Airport guarantee self-sufficiency? Will commercial air service, like Continental Express, ever return to Steamboat Springs Airport?

Safety Steamboat Pilot newspaper records reveal about a 10-to-1 accident rate at Steamboat Springs Airport compared to YVRA Why?

Are there safety issues at Steamboat Springs Airport that are less of a problem at YVRA such as runway length, cross winds, microbursts, icing, close-in mountains? Why was S.T.O.L. removed from the Steamboat Springs Airport runway?

What are the safety concerns for the general public from a failed approach or departure off the south end of the runway at Steamboat Springs Airport?

What aircraft may legally access Steamboat Springs Airport based on the aircraft manufacturer’s performance specifications addressing the required runway length and recommended safety thresholds?

The community review should examine all options at Steamboat Springs Airport including airport expansion, mixed uses and airport closure.

Until the community review is complete, the airport should remain at its current level of operation with no additional expansion.

Q. Is the Steamboat Springs Airport being used for the best possible purpose?

A. The airport is dramatically underused. This community resource encompasses 70-plus acres of industrial and AR zoned land.

It is served with a full complement of utilities, all within the city limits. The terminal costing about $5 million has been mostly vacant for a number of years.

Best estimates are about 1 percent of our residents use the general aviation facilities. It is more important than ever that we use our community resources to the fullest extent possible to serve the most people.

Q. How could the airport be used for more than one thing? What options are there for multiple uses?

A. Mixed uses compatible with general aviation should be examined, although the FAA may have an opinion on proposed uses not related to aviation.

Our city is a sales tax-based economy. The city has no property tax; therefore, we must have quality summer special events.

It makes the most sense to me to offer events that attract people that stay in comfortable lodging, eat in fine restaurants and shop at our many retail stores.

If our business community does well, we generate more sales tax. Lesser-quality events bring tourists in tents. They eat at fast-food restaurants and do little shopping. As an example, in 1998 we lost the vintage car and motorcycle races. They were our No. 1 and No. 3 sales-tax generating events. We canceled them because they outgrew their temporary track at Mount Werner Circle. We have tried to fill that loss with events like music festivals that bring more people, congestion and fewer dollars. If we had a permanent, dedicated events center, we could host many different events.

If the events center had a remote location within the city limits, we wouldn’t feel the congestion of the event downtown or at the mountain, but attendees would still shop, eat and stay at our stores, restaurants and accommodations.

We could never afford to build such a facility.

The terminal at the airport would work well. It is remote but close in, with no nearby residences, plenty of room and vacant.

Affordable housing seems like another option to explore. For at least 10 years, the community has been discussing this issue with no resolution. Examples of roadblocks have been “not in my neighborhood” and expensive land costs.

The airport has significant vacant land, served with all utilities, close to jobs and already city owned.

It is possible we could supply the land and reach an agreement with a private developer to construct housing.

There are other concepts that could be explored.

At our proposed community airport revue forums, I feel many ideas will come forth.

Q. Local pilots have expressed concern over the potential closure of the airport. What is your response to them?

A. The Steamboat Springs Airport should pay for itself.

The community can’t afford such a large subsidy for so few.

If the airport can be financially solvent, after answering the previous questions, I would accept its continued operation. However, the decision isn’t mine alone; this is a community decision.

Q. How could we guarantee the vintage car races would return if we had a racetrack near the airport? Why do you think a multiple-use plan at the airport would work?

A. The only guarantees in life are death, taxes and bifocals after 40.

Some of the problems associated with the races were setup and tear down of the temporary track, which was expensive and labor intensive.

It was also becoming increasingly difficult to keep someone from crossing the track during races.

We’re lucky no one was hurt. The vintage race organizers propose far more than a racetrack. They refer to it as a Motor Sports Park that would provide amenities for a number of other activities further enhancing the opportunities for success at the events center. A permanent track could host numerous other motor sports events: car clubs, driving schools and high-altitude testing opportunities.

In conclusion, I can’t begin to guarantee a multiuse approach will work. I’ve raised many questions.

I believe this community’s best asset is its people. With determination, creative thinking and positive attitudes, working together we can solve the toughest of problems. I urge community involvement.

The City Council will act only if it hears numerous requests for review. Please call, write, fax or e-mail your opinions to City Hall.

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