GIAA has hired consultant to look at replacing 1950s-vintage building
It’s been a part of Gander aviation history for more than five decades, but at what cost should it remain?
© Kevin Higgins/tc• Media
TERMINAL TALK – Gander International Airport Authority chairperson Fred Moffitt explains the dire need of a new terminal building at Gander International Airport during GIAA’s annual public meeting last Wednesday.
That’s the question the Gander International Airport Authority (GIAA) is seriously looking at, and has hired a consultant to help find the answer.
“Most airports these days regard their terminals as a revenue generator…this one costs us $1.2 million per year just to keep it open,” Fred Moffitt, GIAA chairperson, said at the Authority’s annual public meeting last Wednesday. “For example, last year (2013), our oil bill was over $400,000 and the light bill was another $400,000. With ever increasing utility costs, this cannot be allowed to continue if the airport is to remain viable.”
“To this end, the authority has commissioned an architectural and construction consortium to provide us with a new terminal concept more appropriate to our requirements but with instructions to incorporate into their design the historical content and spirit of the existing terminal.”
This is no surprise to many people in tune to the aviation business in the Gander area, as the authority has indicated its concern for several years over the operating costs and wasted space in what is now considered an ‘oversized’ terminal.
“We talk a lot about the heating and electric cost being almost $900,000 last and that’s certainly not going to go down, but it’s also the capital cost of maintaining this old building…there’s 200,000 square feet here,” said Gary Vey, GIAA president and CEO, noting not all space is being currently used. “We just had to look at our options. We looked at ways and means of renovating the current building, but in consultation with our engineers, we came to the conclusion that it wasn’t just viable for us to renovate this building and bring it more along to our needs because simply the size of the building wasn’t going to change. The cost of renovating this old building and not knowing what you would run into was a direction we didn’t want to take. So, the board of directors determined pursuing a new building is the appropriate thing for us to do.”
He noted it could cost anywhere between $6-$8 million (or higher) just to upgrade the heating in the current facility, where, even though it’s really too early to nail down a cost, a new building could come in at between $25-30 million.
“That’s why we would be better off building a new, modern and efficient building that meet our needs,” he said.
Vey said some work has already gone into what type of building, which he suggests need to be only about one-quarter of the current facility.
“Prior to hiring the consultant, we’ve had some of our employees visit several airports in Canada and the United States to look at the types of airports we can get in the typical cost range to fit into what we were looking at,” he said.
“The consultants now will look at the location of the terminal, the space requirements of our tenants, and the projected traffic levels going forward, and to come up with a suitable plan.”
As for a timeframe, Vey said he is hoping to have a report back in September from the consultants, and depending what is in it, the next step is to look at funding options for design and construction.
“This is a long-term project and it won’t be done overnight,” said Vey.
Actually, it’s all but a certainly Vey will not see any part of it start during his tenure as GIAA president and CEO, as he publicly announced at the meeting he will retire on July 1.
“This summer, I will exchange my office view of Runway 13-31 for a different landscape: the rugged cliffs of Notre Dame Bay as seen from my fishing boat,” he said. “Rest assured, the airport will remain in capable hands, and the course we have worked so hard to chart is sound.”
This doesn’t mean he will stopping working and ensuring the pieces of Gander’s aviation history at the airport fade into the background and are forgotten.
“We’ve already asked the consultants to incorporate as much as the old international lounge as possible into a new building, in particular the Birds of Welcome and the mural,” he said. “I don’t suspect the old furniture to be used in the new building, but there’ll be an area somewhere to recognize this component. Maybe we can donate some it to someone as well…that’s all to be determined as we move forward.”
Vey said, right now, the consultants need to talk to GIAA’s tenants and look at their needs, and come back with a three-dimensional proposal of what the new terminal will look like and its cost.
“If we don’t move along with this, the alternative is scary.”
Moffitt said the board of directors couldn’t agree more.
“The board (of directors) feel that the wheels must be set in motion to address this important issue to ensure that Gander International Airport remains as a significant and viable entity in Central Newfoundland,” he said. “No decision has yet been made as to the fate of the existing building but, were it to be repurposed or given to another body, whoever takes it on better have deep pockets!”