BY SCOTT AUST
A parking lot expansion project is under way at Garden City Regional Airport that will more than double the number of parking spaces available.
Due to the tremendous increase in the number of passengers taking advantage of twice-daily flights to Dallas since last April, airport and city officials realized current parking was insufficient to handle passengers' vehicles. The existing 130-space lot is often full, especially on holidays and weekends, requiring people to park in a grassy area north of the lot.
Last year, the city commission and the capital improvement projects committee both felt the parking lot was a high priority, according to Rachelle Powell, director of aviation.
The expansion project will add about 200 new spaces when completed in the next couple of months.
"It will mean passengers will no longer need to park on our grass and dirt on the side of the parking lot, or wherever they could find a spot," Powell said. "Especially over the holiday season, and when we had snow, passengers had to park far away from the terminal in the grassy area and then had to deal with tracking back and forth. That will eliminate that."
Alex Mestdagh, assistant city engineer, said the additional parking will be located east of the existing lot and will be contiguous. Currently, the contractor, JAG construction, is doing underground utility relocations and storm sewers.
When the underground portion is completed, work will begin on grading and pouring concrete. Mestdagh anticipates the project will take about two months to finish, weather permitting.
"If they get good weather, I think they'll get it done fairly quickly. It all depends on what kind of temperatures they get and whether we get more snow," he said.
The project cost of $429,230 is being paid for by a general obligation bond. Unlike other improvement projects such as runway or taxiway improvements, the parking lot project did not qualify for FAA funding because it is not considered a necessity for airport operation.
Demand for new parking increased due to the Dallas flights by air carrier American Eagle, which began service in Garden City on April 3. The two flights per day between Garden City and Dallas-Ft. Worth nearly doubled the number of passenger boardings in 2012 in just nine months of service.
Final boarding numbers for 2012 showed a total of 17,923 enplanements. A total of 11,690 were recorded in all of 2011.
Powell said she is happy with the impact American Eagle has had, and estimates annual boardings could approach 25,000 by the end of 2013.
Powell said it would take 50,000 annual boardings for additional federal funds to become available for additional airport improvements.
Will Livsey, regional manager with Network Planning at American Airlines, said the airline is pleased with the performance of the Garden City-Dallas/Ft. Worth service because it goes to show how integral partnerships with communities can be to make air service successful.
"Our objective is to be the best positioned airline in markets that matter most to our customers, and Garden City complements our network as a burgeoning city in southwestern Kansas. We look forward to our continued relationship and presence in Garden City for years to come," Livsey said.
When asked what boarding numbers would be needed for American to consider adding an additional daily flight, Livsey said the company would probably increase the number of passengers with a higher capacity aircraft first, if warranted.
"We are currently on par with meeting the demand of the market. However, I foresee that we would up-gauge the type of aircraft first before adding frequency. If the enplanements continue to grow, then we will definitely have to consider alternative options to best meet the demand."