A beautiful building of glass, block and stone — designed to look like an airplane wing from the air — is proposed to replace the outdated terminal at Asheboro Regional Airport.
Planners unveiled detailed plans and an estimated price tag of a two-story, 22,739-square-foot facility Thursday night during a special meeting of three boards — the Asheboro City Council, the Randolph County Commissioners and the Asheboro Airport Authority.
Estimated cost of the new building that would replace a terminal built in 1972 is $7,580,471.
A combination of federal, state and private funds could help pay for the upgrade, but the bulk of capital would have to come from city and county coffers.
Anticipated grants total about $1.1 million, including $500,000 earmarked by the state toward construction of a new terminal — the only terminal in North Carolina granted funds in this budget cycle. The members of the airport authority have pledged to raise half a million dollars as part of a private campaign, which would include naming opportunities.
Proponents say the new terminal — offering improved facilities for pilots, as well as meeting rooms and a cafe open to the public — would bolster the economic impact the airport already has on the aviation side of the ledger, while also growing its contribution to the county’s tourism economy.
“Our goal is to have the airport be a vibrant destination for the casual visitor, but also the aviation enthusiast,” Bob Crumley said at the meeting.
Crumley, a member of the airport authority, noted that state figures place last year’s economic impact of the airport, which marked more than 125 flights per week, at $5.94 million. The tax value of airplanes hangared at the airport is almost $5.2 million, he said, which contributes to city and county coffers the tax equivalent of about 42 homes worth $121,000.
Traffic to airports the size of the Asheboro airport, one of 26 business class size airports in the state, Crumley said, will increase significantly in coming years as congestion increases at commercial airports, such as those in Charlotte and Greensboro. A new-and-improved terminal in Asheboro would position the airport to grab its share of that traffic.
City council members and county commissioners did not discuss funding the new terminal during the meeting.
After the meeting, Darrell Frye, chairman of the county commissioners, said he thinks there will be “positive support” for the project from the county. He also noted that in his decades as a county commissioner, this is the first time he recalls a request to fund anything at the airport.
“I think a good airport and the amenities that come with it could help all our economic development projects,” Frye said. “It’s not a city project — it’s a countywide project, a countywide benefit. I think it’s a viable project that the board is very much interested in seeing advanced.”
Asheboro Mayor David Smith said city council members will talk about the proposal and what it might mean for the city and county.
“We know that the airport is an economic engine,” he said. “We have to decide how much of an economic engine we intend for it to be long-term. We know it is woefully inadequate as a facility.”
The city-owned airport on Pilots View Road, off N.C. 49 west of town, was established in its present location in the mid-1960s. Through a series of expansions since then, the tarmac has grown from a 3,000-foot runway to more than a mile long. The facility also has a full-length taxiway. Large commercial airliners cannot land at the Asheboro airport, but business jets (and some commuter jets) can.
In 2001, North Carolina legislators tapped the aviation museum at the airport as the future home of a state aviation Hall of Fame. Today, letters on the exterior of a large hangar note that it houses the North Carolina Aviation Museum & Hall of Fame, but there is only a museum. A Hall of Fame has never been developed.
The terminal proposal envisions space dedicated to pivotal events and personalities important in North Carolina’s aviation history, sort of a “teaser” Hall of Fame. Nearby doors at the end of the building would lead visitors out-of-doors to a covered walkway to the museum.
Crumley said a new terminal would bring visitors to the airport and to the museum — from school groups to pilots who need to log hours in the air. He said he believes the museum budget could grow by 20-fold in just a few years.
“We wanted to build something that was unique,” he said. “It will have pilots flying from all over the East Coast and saying ‘You’ve got to go see this airport.’ “