Mayor Joe Yannuzzi wants people to get a good first impression of the city of Hazleton. He thinks recent renovations to the Hazleton Municipal Airport will do just that.
“When we took over the airport about three years ago, it was in deplorable condition,” he said. “Because of solicited volunteers and donations, it has become a showpiece.”
Friday’s terminal dedication provided opportunity for visitors to tour the airport, especially the newly renovated Pilots Lounge.
Yannuzzi said the Phase I terminal renovations make it more likely pilots will return to the airport, spend money on fuel and explore Hazleton.
Not only did the Pilots Lounge get an upgrade, the airport’s entire interior is being remodeled.
“The interior is about 75 percent finished,” Yannuzzi said.
His commitment to the airport has not gone unchallenged in the last several years with many residents and city officials calling it a “money pit” and questioning its management.
“It’s never been a money pit,” said Yannuzzi. “But, because we had limited money, it did take some time.”
Yannuzzi said the city is also in the process of extending the runway to 5,000 feet, which will allow more jets to land there.
“In the past, we were hearing that jets couldn’t land at the airport because our runway wasn’t long enough,” he said. “This extension will allow those jets to be covered by their insurances when they are landing here at our airport.”
Yannuzzi looks forward to the upgraded airport facilities creating a ripple effect.
“If an increasing number of corporate jets begin to land here, it’s possible that businesses will be attracted to our area,” he said, “resulting in economic benefit to Hazleton and its residents.”
Council President Jack Mundie also believes the airport has the potential to benefit the area economically.
“I think that it’s going to help and give us some revenue,” said Mundie. “I look forward to companies having executives in and out of here because of easy access to Humboldt and Valmont Industrial parks.”
Mundie said city ownership of several hangars will also provide increased revenue for the city.
Council member Jean Mope hopes the airport will achieve financial stability in the long term, drawing businesses from outside the area and continuing to thrive.
Mope hopes the airport will provide opportunity for residents to gather, emphasizing a spirit of community.
For example, she said, a recent display of military planes attracted military enthusiasts and history-minded residents, for both recreation and learning.
Also,Yannuzzi said one of the biggest draws of the airport continues to be the availability of skydiving, for both participants and onlookers.
He credits those who volunteer their time, talent and finances for making the success of the airport a reality.