“Please excuse our mess”
[ by Kendra Walker ]
As with most all construction projects in the valley lately, the Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport (GUC) renovation project is experiencing some delays. While it won’t make its original completion slated for the December ski crowds, the majority of the project is now anticipated for completion by February or March, just in time for the Spring Break crowds.
The $24 million renovation aims to improve passenger flow and the passenger experience at GUC, said Gunnison County sustainable operations director John Cattles. The improvements include adding a restaurant and concessions; updating the security checkpoint and lower level holding rooms; relocating and expanding restrooms; relocating ground service equipment; and adding an automated baggage processing and baggage claim system.
“We’re behind schedule, but that’s just a product of this summer and the difficulty of procuring materials,” said Cattles. “We’ve been waiting months for several high priority items to be delivered. The goal was to have most of the passenger flow ready to go by winter service, and we’re not going to make that. We’re working every day to catch up. Given the year and all the challenges with construction it was inevitable.”
Cattles estimates that construction will catch up sometime in late winter and the interior of the building will be operating at full capacity. “It’s looking more like into February or March before we have the interior of the building working all the way we want,” he said.
The goal is to then be fully complete in summer 2022. “We’re still projecting final completion in July,” he said. “That’s when our flights ramp up again and that’s the goal that we’re totally finished.”
Currently, the airport has been able to maintain the ticketing hall and security checkpoint and has a temporary hold room. “It’s inconvenient and we know some of our guests have not had a great experience,” said Cattles, noting the construction process this summer and fall. “It’s an interesting passenger flow right now. Most people understand the construction process and most folks are waiting until closer to their flight before going through security.
“We’ve been adapting and we’ve improved over time,” he continued. “We’ve been doing our best to make that experience a little better and ultimately shorten that as much as possible.”
Cattles said the airport’s 2021/2022 winter service strategy has been revised to modify passenger flow around the construction. “We will have indoor hold rooms and the indoor security checkpoint will be completed, so it will be easier for folks to drop off bags and get through security. But they will have to walk through some tunnels that go through those construction zones.”
Cattles also noted that they’re doing their best to minimize active construction while passengers are arriving and departing. “Then as soon as a flight leaves our crews will be back in there and be painting and trimming, trying to catch up,” he said. “We also have crews working into the evenings so we can avoid a lot of traffic.”
Cattles reiterated how much he appreciates everyone’s patience. “We know right now it’s a mess but we’re still trying to make this as short a duration as possible. We opted to go the fast route and pull the Band-Aid off instead of spreading it out over a longer period of time. It’s more painful and more inconvenient but we thank people for their patience with us and hope they come back to see the final product.”