New terminal at Eagle County Regional Airport drawing wows from travelers
After more than a year of construction, new 47,239-square-foot space greets Vail Valley's visitors
GYPSUM — When Chicago residents Jayme McKellop, Josh O’Donnell and their children, Catherine 5, and Nathaniel, 3, arrived at the Eagle County Regional Airport on June 30, they climbed down an outdoor staircase to depart their plane and then marched through a construction zone to collect luggage before they could begin their vacation.
When they arrived Friday for their flight home, they were in for a pleasant surprise — a whole new terminal was in service.
“We kind of remember the terminal from last year and we could see it was physically under construction,” McKellop said. “This (the new terminal) is really beautiful.”
“We were just talking about how this is really nice,” O’Donnell added.
The Chicago travelers were not alone in their sentiments. As passengers walked off the new jet bridge from a United Express flight Friday morning, there were a number of audible “wows.” The same comment could be overhead at the top of the new terminal escalator.
Under the direction of general contractor Hensel Phelps, crews have been at work on the new 47,239-square-foot terminal for more than a year. The project includes six new gates — four connected to jet bridges and two ground gates.
A new 17,336-square-foot ground services area, which includes improved baggage handling equipment, is located underneath the second story terminal space. All told, the total building floor after the expansion will be nearly 120,000 feet, not including the ground service equipment area. It replaces a previous 93,000-square-foot structure. Airport revenue bonds are financing the terminal project and the debt will be repaid from revenue generated at the airport.
New digs, new boss
Eagle County Director of Aviation David Reid said he feels a bit guilty as he looks out at the new terminal facilities. Not because they are so expansive, but because he came on board at the tail end of the work. Reid began his job just over a week ago and just in time to open the new facility.
“On Monday we opened the first phase of the terminal project — the part of the building that features the four passenger bridges,” said Reid. “Phase two will be two additional ground gates where the old temporary boarding area was. That work begins in earnest this coming Monday.”
July 1 was the official terminal change-over day. The flights that left Eagle County Monday morning departed from the temporary gates.
“That was primarily because of where the planes were parked from arriving the day before,” said Reid.
The flights that arrived Monday flew to the new jet bridges and terminal.
“It was definitely a change for travelers and I would say they were pleasantly surprised when they got off the plane, to see the differences,” said Reid.
While he wasn’t yet hired when Eagle County launched its terminal expansion project, Reid has his own construction experience. For 28 years, he worked at his hometown airport in Kalamazoo, Michigan. In 2011, he oversaw a construction project that included an entirely new terminal facility.
“There’s a lot of deja vu in coming to Eagle,” Reid said.
“The passenger service here will certainly be world class,” Reid continued. “This is obviously a beautiful design and a beautiful facility they have created here.”
Developers are circling Minturn, with hundreds of new homes being proposed, but town’s water situation will dictate their fate.