Airport takes off with expansion plans | SierraSun.com

Airport takes off with expansion plans

Erich Sommer

Five architectural and engineering firms presented their solutions last Thursday to the $5 to $6 million riddle handed to them by the Truckee Tahoe Airport Board of Directors last month.At a March workshop the board laid out what they think are the essential features that should be part of the new terminal building at the Truckee Tahoe Airport.Some of the desired elements expressed by board members included a lodge-like structure with more office space and a larger meeting room that could double as a community center.After the workshop, firms hoping to win the contract had approximately 30 days to incorporate those elements into a design that will create a terminal that will last into the latter half of this century.The competition produced an interesting mix of designs that tried to blend rustic and nostalgic sensibilities into a building that needs to remain relevant until at least 2050.”The board thought (the terminal) should reflect the mountain character of the area,” said Truckee Tahoe Airport General Manager Dave Gotschall. “But they didn’t want form to drive function.”The five local firms vying for the board’s nod-of-approval include Ward-Young Architecture & Planning, MWA Architecture and Engineering, JLS Design, Ryan Group Architects and Elise Fett Ltd.”The board set the price at (the March) workshop. We told them we have up to $6 million and we want the biggest bang for our buck,” Gotschall said.All five firms unveiled their plans during presentations last week in the currently cramped boardroom at the airport.One of the firms described the challenge of the design as “merging the Tahoe style with a future that we can’t predict.”Others spoke of things like the timelessness that they felt the building should have, attempts to design a “cozy yet grand building,” and one that would be “restored with pride instead of demolished.”The proposed designs included terminals ranging in size from 12,500 to 21,000 square feet with estimated price tags of between $3.5 to $6 million.Several of the firms pointed out that their designs were flexible enough that the needs of future commercial operations, including additional security and baggage handling capabilities, could the accommodated by their terminal design.”The conference center could be turned into a security gate,” said Kurt Reinkens of MWA.Gotschall said that while the airport is currently not recruiting commercial carriers, “nobody can predict what will happen in 50 years.””We are not going out after commercial service, but if a commercial carrier service says this is the ideal place for say, flights from here to LA, we want to be able to accommodate that,” he said.Gotschall says the difference between trying to attract commercial service and being approached by a carrier “is that if a carrier really wants to be here, they have to pony up for things like rent, landing fees, passenger facility charges, and fuel.”Gotschall said airports actively seeking commercial operations would often make concessions or wave some of those fees.”Right now, with Reno so close, I think it would be more of a detriment than benefit. But I wouldn’t rule it out in the future,” Gotschall said.Airport officials say several things are driving the need for a new terminal building.Most obvious is the condition and size of the current terminal, which is nearing its 40th anniversary and is outdated and cramped.”It’s really not adequate to do all the things the airport and the district would like to do,” he said recently. “This building has served its useful purpose.”The current terminal is approximately 5,000 square feet, Gotschall said.”The new terminal building has been enlarged three times, and we are really out of space now,” said board President Barbara K. Northrop.”It’s also ahead of the building relief line, which means it’s too close to the airport,” Gotschall added.Much of the funding will come from approximately $3.5 million in the district’s general fund that has been earmarked for this project. Federal and state grants and even loans are additional funding options.Originally discussed as far back as the1970s, a new terminal was outlined in the airport’s revised master plan that was adopted it in 2000, but the board has only recently decided to actively pursue its construction.”We’ve been talking about it for at least the last year,” Northrop said.Airport officials hope to break ground for the new terminal sometime in the 2003 construction season.Since taking over last spring, Gotschall has lobbied for the new terminal by pointing out that the district organization, which covers 760 square miles, has a regional representation.”We need a terminal that positively reflects the whole area. Don’t forget, this is the first and last thing people see when they fly into this area,” he has said on many occasions.Gotschall has placed all the design drawing in the airport boardroom for public viewing and comment.The board is scheduled to discuss selecting one of the firms for the new terminal at today’s meeting, but Gotschall said he will request they defer that discussion until later next month in order to allow for additional public comment on the designs.”There are several really good plans … It is going to be a hard decision,” Northrop said.