Thermopolis has its new airport.
Hot Springs County, state and federal officials celebrated the completion of the $20 million project during a grand opening ceremony Saturday.
Wyoming Gov.Matt Mead was in attendance along with former Gov. Dave Freudenthal, U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo. and U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo.
Hot Springs County Commission Chairman Brad Basse said, “Welcome to the newest airport in Wyoming, if not the nation.”
Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead said that airports throughout Wyoming provide about $1.4 billion in economic impact.
He said, “When we think about what airports do, and when we think about what this airport does, it will not be just economic impact. It will not be providing convenience to those in the area and the state. It’s also going to provide a very important function, and that’s life and safety issues.”
“It was said that this may be the newest airport. I was speculating – safely – it’s probably the newest airport in the world. This is amazing,” Mead said, adding that his landing Saturday morning was “Like butter. It’s a beautiful, beautiful facility.”
The path to a new airport
“We arrived here today, with the encouragement of (Wyoming Department of Transportation Aeronautics),” Basse said, adding that the process initially began in 2003.
Basse said they soon learned that the old Thermopolis airport was at the end of its life and if there was going to be an airport in Hot Springs County, it would have to be a replacement airport.
The project was funded largely through Federal Aviation Airport Improvement Project grant monies. The FAA provided 90 percent of the funding with WYDOT providing an additional eight percent. Local entities roughly two percent of the remaining cost.
“Hot Springs County has gotten the bargain of a lifetime. I really want to thank the FAA for being our partner, along with WYDOT aeronautics,” Basse said, adding, “We’re celebrating a new community asset.”
Basse said in a phone interview Monday that the old airport in Hot Springs County did not meet FAA standards and was on its last legs.
“It would have cost more to upgrade the old airport than it would have to build a new one,” Basse said. The old airport runway was in such a severe state of disrepair that someone could walk onto the runway and kick their foot through the runway, Basse.
According to Basse, the runway length at the previous airport was 4,500 feet. The new airport’s runway length is 6,500 feet, an increase of 2,000 feet.
The new airport, located at 1080 Manning Road, approximately nine miles north of Thermopolis on Wyoming Highway 120, will be able to house up to 12 planes in indoor hangars.
Basse said that Saturday’s ceremony did not mark the end of a project; it marked the beginning of Thermopolis’ new airport.
“We now have a federally-approved airport, talked about for decades, but now a reality. All of the work and money can now be put to use. Prior to today, this was just a bunch of gravel, asphalt and dirt that had been moved around. But now, it’s a part of an integrated network of airports to serve the nation,” Basse said.
Basse also thanked GDA Engineers, the project’s engineering firm, for their work on the matter and added that selecting the company for the project, was the “smartest decision we made.”