$30M Airport Intended to Spur Conway Economy

by Luke Jones  on Monday, May. 19, 2014 12:00 am  

Construction of Conway’s new airport and terminal is underway at the Lollie Bottoms region south of the city.

Much of that price tag came from acquiring the 380 acres of land at Lollie Bottoms, as well as grading, paving and lighting the runways. The airport, which is being designed and overseen by the engineers at Garver of North Little Rock, will have 36 “tee” hangars at a cost of $1.9 million, a $649,000 community hangar and a $300,000 fueling facility. The main terminal, being designed by Sowell Architects Inc. and built by Corco Construction, both of Conway, will cost $1.6 million. The city paid $1.5 million to improve some roads leading out to the site, and more improvements will be needed in the future.

Weaver Bailey Contractors of El Paso (White County) is paving the 5,500-foot concrete runway — compared with 4,875 feet at the current site — with options to extend it to 7,000 feet in the future. It will be 100 feet wide, compared with 75 feet at the current airport.

The main safety improvement is that “there will be nothing to run into out there,” Bell said.

“In fact, in addition to 5,500 feet of pavement, there is a 1,000-foot safety zone on the other end,” Hegeman said.

Funds are coming from a variety of sources. The FAA originally agreed to pay 95 percent of the costs of buying the land, paving runways and building roads within the airport boundaries. But last year, the administration dropped that to 90 percent, meaning it’s paying about $20 million.

Another $6.1 million will come from the sale of the old airport property, which is underway.

The rest of the costs will be paid by the Arkansas Department of Aeronautics and the city itself. Conway Corp., a nonprofit company that owns a franchise for the city-owned utilities, will provide a water line to the airport.

But even with all of the outside help, the non-FAA part of the project is still coming in at just about $80,000 over budget. Bell said the city is looking for additional funding sources, like grants, to fix that problem, and the city may push some budget items to 2015, when the airport is expected to be producing revenue.

Landing Businesses

So how does this huge expense make sense for the town?

According to Conway Aviation Services, the private business that runs the current airport, the airport had about 16,000 flight operations in 2013, including both takeoff and landing operations. By comparison, Little Rock’s Clinton National Airport had 97,303.

Bell said the airport’s customers are “mostly businesses,” including large companies with Conway locations like Southwestern Energy Co., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Acxiom Corp. Some smaller aircraft are used by local businesses, and there are some recreational pilots as well.



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