By Michael Somerby EBS DIGITAL EDITOR
BOZEMAN – Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport plans to add approximately 70,000 square feet to the existing concourse by the summer of 2020. This increase seeks to accommodate a steady growth in annual passengers, reflecting a rise in tourism and residency in the Gallatin Valley and surrounding areas.
The last expansion occurred 10 years ago when the Gallatin Airport Authority approved developments to accommodate up to 1.5 million passengers annually, more than double the levels seen at that point time, according to a Feb. 25 GAA statement. The airport expects to meet that 1.5 million threshold in 2019.
Brian Sprenger has worked at the Bozeman airport for 36 years, originally on the airline side of the industry, and then for airport itself. Looking back now, as airport director for the last 10 years, he never thought the scope of these expansions would be possible.
“It’s way, way beyond what we imagined, what this place would become,” Sprenger told EBS in a Feb. 26 interview. “Many of us knew Bozeman [Yellowstone International Airport] was a strong growth airport, but no one expected the amount of growth and this rate of growth.”
GAA selected the Bozeman-based engineering consultant Morrison-Maierle, Comma-Q Architecture and general contractor Martel Construction, Inc., along with the nationally recognized Reynolds, Smith & Hills architecture, engineering and consulting firm to undertake the scheduled concourse additions.
Neither local nor state taxes will fund the $27 million project, a principal the airport has operated on and used to expand for more than 30 years. Instead, a combination of financing from GAA’s capital improvement fund and Airport Improvement Program grants will pay for the expansion.
According to Sprenger, construction will begin almost immediately with Martel Construction breaking ground by the end of March.
Tony Martel, president of the eponymous company, suggests the project will have a positive impact on the Bozeman and Gallatin Valley job market, creating an estimated 500 direct and indirect jobs over the course of the construction.
“This expansion, much like the previous ones, will maintain the style and décor of previous expansions welcoming friends, family, and visitors to our amazing community,” said Carl Lehrkind IV, board chairman of the Gallatin Airport Authority, in the statement.
Sprenger echoed Lehrkind’s sentiment, noting that all new food vendors and shops in the concourse will feature Montana products and Montana ownership, a continuation of the status quo at the Bozeman airport.
“We feel that people travel to Montana because there are things here that can’t be found elsewhere,” Sprenger said. “The same is true for goods purchased in Montana. They don’t come here to buy things that aren’t from Montana, things they could buy anywhere else.”
This expansion, and the spatial demands driving it, is emblematic of the explosive growth seen in countless sectors and communities around Gallatin County. In Sprenger’s opinion, there is plenty of growth yet unseen.
“If this is any indication of where it’s headed, it’s bound to get even crazier.”