AUBURN – Auburn University administrators and local government officials say a new flight terminal at the Auburn University Regional Airport will be an important economic development tool for east Alabama.
They gathered Friday afternoon to dedicate the 26,000-square-foot facility.
“The new terminal will serve east Alabama well for many years by fostering economic growth, giving visitors an excellent first impression and supporting our academic programs,” Auburn University President Jay Gogue said. “State Representative Mike Hubbard and other city and county leaders worked to make this asset and resource possible for our community.”
City of Auburn Mayor Bill Ham, chairman of the airport advisory board, served as the master of ceremonies at the dedication. Speakers included Rep. Hubbard, Ham, Gogue, City of Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller and Lee County Probate Judge Bill English.
“This is a true partnership between the university, Auburn, Opelika, Lee County and the state of Alabama,” said Bill Hutto, airport director. “The airport is a training ground for aviation students and it serves the local area as a public-use facility.”
Auburn University owns and operates the airport, which is the only university-owned airport in the state. The cost of the $5.5 million terminal will be paid by the local governments as a collaborative effort to enhance the region’s appeal to potential industry. Funding for additional improvements in recent years has come from federal and state grants, including $4.7 million secured by Rep. Hubbard; a portion was applied toward the terminal construction as well.
The previous terminal was built in 1950 and the original airport was constructed in 1930.
The new terminal has a flight planning room; crew lounge with two sleep rooms and showers for pilots waiting on travelers; two conference rooms that will allow out-of-town executives to meet with local leaders at the airport; galley for refrigerating and heating catered food; and office space for airport staff.
More than 5,000 square feet of lease space is targeted toward aviation-related businesses, including space next to the lobby for a rental car agency. Outside the terminal is an expanded ramp, or tarmac, that covers approximately 5.5 acres.
“For big football games, we will have as many as 200 planes arriving on those weekends,” Hutto said.
A life-size, fiberglass Auburn tiger wearing a flight jacket greets visitors as they enter the lobby. Aviation artwork adorns the facility as well.
The modern terminal is the latest upgrade to the airport. A runway was lengthened in 2001 to a length of 5,265 feet to handle larger aircraft, including corporate jets; the airport also has a second runway of 4,000 feet. The airport’s all-weather landing capability was enhanced through a new instrument landing system in 2007 and new approach lights in 2008.
A new entranceway has been constructed, allowing guests to enter from Glenn Avenue if driving from Auburn, or Frederick Road if driving from Opelika. The entrance is located approximately one-half mile north of Interstate 85′s exit 57.
In 2009 the airport name was changed from the Auburn Opelika Robert G. Pitts Airport to the Auburn University Regional Airport and Robert G. Pitts Field.
(Written by Charles Martin.)