Steamboat Springs Airport contributes over $49M to local economy, according to study
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Steamboat Springs Airport has a wider economic impact than most people realize, said airport manager Stacie Fain.
There’s a lot more to it than just a landing spot for private jets, she noted.
New Colorado Department of Transportation reports detail those impacts for both the Steamboat airport and the Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden. According to those reports, the Steamboat Airport is estimated to contribute $49.13 million to the local economy and the Hayden Airport adds another $605.27 million.
Together, the two airports also provide the community with an array of benefits for the entire county that “reach far outside the physical facility itself,” noted Mike Lane, public information officer for the city of Steamboat Springs.
The Steamboat airport is one of 56 general aviation airports as part of the state’s CDOT system, and it hosts everything but scheduled commercial flights.
The airport in Hayden is one of 14 commercial service airports under CDOT’s purview.
Across the state, the general aviation and commercial airports have a $48.6 billion impact on the state’s economy in terms of business revenue, according to the report.
The information compiled in the 2020 economic impact report is very useful for her role as manager, Fain said, and provides better data than the last report in 2012.
From 2012, the Steamboat airport’s business revenue has increased by almost 200% to $26.11 million, Fain said. Part of that can be attributed to the recession, she said, and older numbers that may not have as accurately told the whole story.
And, of course, there’s been growth.
One of the biggest current needs at the Steamboat airport is for more hangar space, Fain said.
There are currently 65 aircraft based at the airport, with 49 hangars and 19 aircraft on the waiting list for a hangar.
The city owns 10 of the hangars and 39 are privately owned, on which the city still collects fees.
The impact reports look at both the impact of what happens directly on airport grounds and what all those travelers coming and going from the airport bring to the larger community.
At Steamboat, the jobs, payroll, value added and business revenue numbers include tenants housed in airport facilities. One of the biggest tenants is Smartwool, whose office space will become home to Honey Stinger when Smartwool moves its headquarters to Denver, likely around May or June. Other tenants include Classic Air Medical, Zephyr Helicopter Company and Mountain Aircraft Maintenance.
The airport also is used for firefighting efforts, a flying club, medical evacuations, military training exercises and by a number of private land developers and technical firms, Fain said. Colorado Parks and Wildlife also utilizes the airport for things like the recent elk count.
Use and operations continue to increase, Fain said. There are approximately 12,000 operations a year, which counts every takeoff and landing. It averages about 10 to 12 aircraft landing or taking off per day. The city-owned FBO — fixed base operations — is now operationally self-sustaining, Fain said — a goal she’s worked hard toward.
Because the airport is part of CDOT and under the Federal Aviation Administration, capital improvements are 80% to 90% funded by those two agencies, Fain explained. The taxpayer burden is thus relatively limited.
Planning for the future
In terms of looking at the next 20 years for the airport, consultants gave Steamboat Springs City Council a detailed presentation on the airport’s master plan at Tuesday night’s work session.
There are a number of projects required by CDOT and the FAA, such as pavement repair, moving the fuel canopy and repainting runway markings. There is also a need for the airport’s zoning to be changed, the consultants told council, because currently there is no zoning that “intentionally protects airspace and land around the airport for non-compatible uses.”
A highly desirable project — lengthening the runway from 4,452 feet to 5,000 feet — is cost prohibitive at $139 million and unlikely ever to happen, Fain said. The 2008 master plan called for a runway extension to 5,780 feet.
The estimated cost of increasing hangar space exceeds $5.5 million, according to the consultants, but that expansion would be solicited for investment from the private sector.
Other projects deemed desirable include a new taxiway and 24-hour fuel service.
Council requested the next draft of the master plan better clarify which projects are required under FAA and CDOT regulations and which are more aspirational.
Some council members expressed discomfort with including projects that aren’t planned, that the council isn’t committed to and some that likely won’t ever happen.
While a project like lengthening the runway may not happen for a long time if ever, there is value in just having it on paper, the consultants explained, in case state or federal agencies decide they want to provide funding.
Near-term steps directed by council will be to address the zoning issue, add clarifications to the master plan prior to approval and solicit requests for proposals for the hangar expansion.
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