HAYDEN, Idaho — Kootenai County's population's taking off and so could the possibility of commercial flights in North Idaho.
There’s been a recent interest in building a commercial terminal at the Coeur d'Alene Airport (COE) in Hayden.
Avports, an airport operations and management company based out of Virginia, would be the ones to build, said Avports spokesperson Andrew King. They would also be the ones to get an airline in.
“For us, it's an exciting opportunity that there are people who have to drive out of the state in order to go somewhere else,” said King. He also said many people living North Idaho have to go Spokane International Airport if they want to take a flight to other places such as Boise.
Former airport director Steven Kjergaard says this isn't the first time Coeur d'Alene Airport’s had commercial service, but he says that stopped back in the early 90s.
King said their plan is to have a temporary commercial terminal on the airport’s east side before eventually relocating to the north end.
"The site is intended to be a short-term facility to prove the market out," King said. "So, can we get to five flights a day? I mean, that's a basic question before we can spend the kind of capital it takes to build a more permanent facility."
But, plans hit a snag in late December when the Kootenai County Board of County Commissioners put their decision about the proposed development and lease on hold.
Also at the commissioner meeting was Coeur d'Alene Airport Association board member Steve Anderson. He said the first time he heard about the Avports contract was hours before the commissioner's meeting.
KREM 2 spoke with Anderson at an informational meeting in January. He said one of the issues he has about the project is the lack of an airline:
"They don't have an airline yet that they're planning to bring in," Anderson said. "So, we kind of call it the Field of Dreams terminal building where you build a terminal, and then you hope that that another airline will come in."
He also told KREM 2 he wasn’t sure if having commericial service would actually work: "There's been commercial carriers that have come in here. They thought that this was a good deal. But you know, from Coeur d’Alene here's 45 minutes over to Spokane international, and they've got, you know, 60 or 70 flights a day going all over the country."
Kirk Lauer with Coeur d’Alene Aviation and Maintenance doesn't see it that way, saying it'd be great if people in the county could get access to the airport.
“It's a great airport. It's maintained to a commercial standard. But, it's not accessible to a lot of the people in the county,” Lauer said.
King said Avports did have some meetings prior to the county commissioner meeting, but admits they rushed into the approval process.
“I will say that I think that we didn't go far enough in that,” he said. “We followed the standard practice for ground leases here at the airport and in hindsight, it's very easy to see that, you know, commercial service is a public interest."
As a result, they're now meeting with neighbors, residents, business owners, pilots and other stakeholders in the airport to get feedback and answer questions.
He also said they're not sure when they'll approach the Kootenai County commissioners again.
“We're pulling it way back and making sure that we're taking our time. However long it takes us is how long it takes," King said.
According to King, if any one has questions or concerns about the proposal of a commercial terminal at the Coeur D’Alene Airport, they can submit them to coeairport.com.
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