local airport STARTS RENOVATION

GUC BEGINS LONG-AWAITED TERMINAL REMODEL

by: Scout Walton

Construction activity in the Valley promises to reach a fevered pace this summer, and one of the larger projects underway is Gunnison County’s renovation of its terminal building serving the Gunnison–Crested Butte Regional Airport.  Thanks to a surprise funding windfall last year through the federal Covid stimulus bill, the CARES Act, architects at Gensler Associates were tasked to redesign the project to incorporate a wish-list of needed improvements to the 40-year-old facility.  Now, the $24 million project will be debt-free.  The focus of the work will be to improve the overall passenger experience from the arrival process to the updated exterior appearance and reimagined interior spaces.  In addition, the facility will be more energy and operationally efficient.

For the past 10 years or more, passenger traffic has been steady with 30,000-50,000 passenger enplanements per year (see graph below).

Source: ACAIS, FAA Airports

Approximately 80% of these folks are vacationers and part-time residents, and ease of access and the quality of their arrival and departure experience at their destination plays a role in deciding where they spend their leisure travel dollar.  A 2020 study by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) cited the significant economic impacts of the Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport: 1,000 jobs, $44M in payroll, $71M in value added re-spending and $121M in related business revenues – but the study also found the terminal to be in need of modernization.  Now, that day has come! 

New Airport Signage based off of USFS signs

In a recent presentation, project manager John Cattles (also the County’s Sustainable Operations Director and Facilities Maintenance Supervisor) highlighted the key elements of the remodel project (see renderings of key spaces below):

The overall passenger flow will be simplified from the vehicular arrival lanes and wayfinding inspired by USFS signage to reducing the number of entries/exits to relocating certain ground service equipment out of the terminal.

  • Parking will double and most spaces will be covered with panels serving as a solar array.
  • Curbside drop off will be covered and the passenger-side exterior will be a modern log veneer and plenty of glass allowing visibility through the building to the runway-side.
  • The ticketing area will be made quieter with sound mitigation panels and new carpeting installed over the existing concrete floor.
  • The security screening operation, which was squeezed in after 9/11, will be elongated.
  • Restrooms will be updated.
  • Escalators will be added.
  • A colorful “living room” and bar will be the centerpiece of the departure level, which will be complemented by other soft seating areas and even an interactive kids’ play garden.
  • Art installations throughout the building will remind travelers of the unique lifestyle and recreational amenities of the Gunnison Valley.
  • Concession options will be expanded in the gate and baggage claim areas.
  • The worn-out baggage handling system and jet bridges, which were used equipment from the Stapleton airport when they were installed, will be replaced.
  • More circulation space will be added to the baggage claim area (approximately 800 square feet).
  • The electrical and mechanical systems have reached the end of their useful life and will be upgraded.
  • LEED designation will be pursued after completion and net-zero is possible thanks to many environmentally friendly features, such as added insultation, geothermal heat source, a solar array in parking lot.
  • Material selections have been inspired by local surroundings and character, real and authentic but not always polished: stone, oak, log, leather, bright colors accenting earth tones, metals with varied patina, exposed concrete and plenty of glass.

Interior Design Concepts

New Departure Level Living Area

The interior improvements will take place substantially within the existing 34,800 square feet of the terminal with minimal additions to the overall footprint.  New floor area will be gained on the upper level by extending the floor plate, and the roof will be raised in certain places to gain more solar exposure.  Colorado-based Shaw Construction mobilized earlier this month and will have the majority of the interior work completed in time for the winter flights in mid-December.

Between now and then, the terminal will be 20% accessible with half the ticketing counters in service.  Passengers will pass through security and exit the terminal into temporary gate area covered on the ramp with ground-boarding like the good ole days!  Flight service will continue as normal with daily flights from Denver and Houston (June 24-September 6) on United Airlines (https://www.united.com/en/us).

For more information on the Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport, activities and events in the Gunnison Valley or real estate opportunities, contact your local broker professional at LIV Sotheby’s International Realty in Crested Butte!

New Escalators with Topo Art Wall

New TSA Security Checkpoint