PITTSFIELD — With the $22.5 million city airport expansion behind it, the Pittsfield Airport Commission is exploring ways the airport can make more money to support itself — possibly through a youth sports complex.
The seven-member commission has designated three members to study ways to use about 25 acres of open space along the airport’s entrance off Tamarack Road. Any revenue that would be generated by a development there would help fund the commission’s $181,000 annual budget.
The group will work toward the airport’s goal of developing a master plan for the municipal airfield, according to airport manager Mark Germanowski.
“This is a long-term process of how to move the airport forward for the next 20 to 30 years,” he said.
While the 25 acres at the airport entrance is zoned as light industrial, it lacks the necessary city water, sewer and proper electricity service to be immediately developed as a commercial venture, according to airport officials. Given the significant funding needed for the infrastructure improvements, the commission is focusing on possible recreational use for the land.
“There is probably enough land here for three to four full-size soccer fields … to be able to have a true sports facility,” commission vice chairman Chris Pederson said.
At a recent meeting, the commission declared it was time to improve the airport’s cash flow, now that the airport expansion is “substantially” complete. The majority of the project, which was wrapped up late last year, included extending the main runway, adding new safety areas around the runway, and clearing about 120 acres of trees considered an air traffic obstruction by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Currently, the airport is funded through various fees, rental agreements and property taxes from privately owned airplane hangars and the Westwood Center industrial park, Germanowski said. The 30-acre business park off Barker Road was developed nearly 30 years ago using surplus airport property in order to generate revenue for the facility. In mid-1980 dollars, the city spent $500,000 in road services to carve up the site into eight commercial lots.
However, Germanowski pointed out the FAA has the final say over how the airport land is used because it was purchased with federal grants. In addition, the federal agency won’t fund development of airport property, unless it’s directly related to the facility, such as the runway expansion.
“[The FAA] wants you to do well, but they don’t assist you in revenue-generating ventures,” Germanowski said.