Boulder City Municipal Airport is an important economic tool for the city and has the potential to become an even greater one. While the airport is a public enterprise, it also supports several for-profit aviation-related businesses, employs over 400 people, and brings hundreds of visitors to our town each day.
Among Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters, Grand Canyon Airlines and Five Star Helicopter Tours, almost a quarter of a million passengers used our airport to visit the Grand Canyon last year. We remain the third busiest airport in Nevada. We surpass Henderson Executive and North Las Vegas airports by a long shot. Think of that.
Only McCarran International and Reno/Tahoe support more air traffic than we do.
Besides our tour companies, the airport has several other commercial tenants, including those that provide essential aeronautical services like fueling, hangaring, tie-down, parking, and aircraft repair and painting. The airport is also home to Sky Dive Las Vegas and to the Army Corps of Engineers and its three Blackhawk helicopters.
Of course, the many benefits of a busy airport don’t come without heavy wear and tear and other serious challenges and costs. That’s a big reason why an airport master plan study is currently in process. Its purpose is to identify existing and long-term aviation demand over the next 20 years, then to translate collected data into facility development plans designed to meet that demand. Eligible projects shown to be necessary and justified can receive up to almost 94 percent assistance from the Federal Aviation Administration.
An airport rates and charges study is also underway. A firm has been engaged to evaluate the airport’s current rate structure. The study should be finalized before the end of the fiscal year, and airport administration then plans to present a new rate and fee schedule to the City Council for approval.
This spring the airport will wrap up the final phase of its $7 million drainage improvement work that has been ongoing for over five years now. This work addressed extensive drainage problems that in the past caused washouts and resulting safety and security concerns after large rain events.
During our drainage project, the airport was fortunate enough to acquire asphalt millings from McCarran and place them around our runways and taxiways to aid erosion control. The millings also provide the added benefits of reducing dust and helping to control weeds.
Ongoing airfield improvements like these continue to make our airport a safer and more inviting place from which to fly and do business.
As I mentioned above, I believe that the airport has the potential to become a much greater economic engine for Boulder City than it has been in the past. Although our airport tour and adventure companies attract hundreds of visitors each day, most of these visitors never realize that we have downtown shops, hotels, restaurants and other attractions, much less set foot in them. For the most part, these guests get shuttled directly to the airport, fly elsewhere to their destination, then get shuttled back to Las Vegas without ever seeing the many wonderful amenities that our city has to offer.
I’ve challenged many of our airport companies to find ways to change this. And while a few have responded with initial overtures of collaboration, we still have a long way to go. So I’m reissuing that challenge. And I’m issuing it to our downtown businesses as well.
We need to get serious about exploring possibilities for our airport businesses and our downtown businesses to work together and help one another to succeed in mutually beneficial, win-win ways. And whether that means bringing our airport visitors to our downtown area, or bringing a small slice of our downtown businesses to our airport, or both, its something we all need to make a priority and figure out together.
I thank those who have already accepted that challenge and are working to find creative solutions. And I also want to express how very grateful I am for our airport staff members and all their hard work to keep our airport safe and running smoothly. It’s a monumental task, and you deserve to know how much we appreciate your dedicated service. Thank you for all that you do!
Rod Woodbury is mayor of Boulder City. He has been serving on the City Council since 2011 and is the president and managing shareholder of his law firm, Woodbury Law.