Grove Mayor Marty Follis recently walked inside the new Grove Regional Airport terminal building and was silent.
“Several people asked me what was wrong, and I replied, ‘I thought I was walking inside the Oklahoma City airport,’ ” Follis said.
Gone is a dreary old terminal with bathrooms located in the middle of the only waiting area.
City leaders pumped almost $3 million into the airport project to build 5,000-square-foot terminal building, a taxiway expansion, a new connector taxiway and a 100,000-square-foot concrete apron, said Lisa Jewett, airport manager.
Also included is a private pilot’s lounge with a private bathroom, two separate waiting areas for passengers, as well as the public, a conference room and a storm shelter, she said.
The city will hold a grand opening on April 5.
From a 3,500-foot grass strip established in 1960 to an airport that covers more than 210 acres, the Grove Regional Airport outgrew its municipal airport status and was recently classified as a regional airport by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission.
The Grove Regional Airport boasts two terminals, a fixed base operator, 30 private hangars and 22 T-hangars, which hold individual bays for airplanes.
“Other than the Tulsa International Airport, the other regional airports in northeast Oklahoma are in Miami and Claremore,” Jewett said.
“The main reason we built the new building on the opposite side of the airport was to expand for future growth,” she said. “We will continue to look to the future for our customers and the city of Grove.”
“It also opens up the west side to growth as that area now has utilities and is accessible from the west,” said Bill Keefer, Grove city manager.
The next step for the airport is to build taxiways on the west side of the airport to accommodate new hangar construction, Jewett said.
The rainy weather in the spring of 2015 almost grounded construction.
“We had more rain than ever,” Jewett said. “Heavy equipment was constantly getting stuck more than they were working. It was very challenging. We had to wait long periods of time for the ground to dry.”
The Grove Regional Airport is able to serve all general aviation traffic and all business jets up to 90,000 pounds, Jewett said.
In the summer, between 350 to 500 people use the airport each month, she said.
“This doesn’t include the businesses that fly in and out,” Jewett said.
Additionally, bass anglers fly in to meet their drivers when there are major fishing tournaments on Grand Lake, she said.
The Grove Regional Airport is important to major employers in the area.
Several Grove companies have aircraft based at the Grove airport, and as a retirement and tourist community, the airport is vital to those traveling to and from Grove, as well as those who own lake homes here, she said.
Grove Regional Airport is also the closest airport to the Missouri state line, so many Tyson Foods representatives fly in and out of Grove, she said.
“We serve many of the larger businesses in the industrial park, as well as the hospital,” Jewett said. “Many doctors fly in and out of the airport weekly to see their patients.”
Many emergency transfer services such as Eagle Med Life Flight land their helicopters and planes on the runway to meet ambulances in order to transfer patients, she said.