Daniel Field renovations take shape

Airport upgrades aim to give guests a nicer welcome

When Masters guests landed at Daniel Field airport this year, they saw "Pardon our Progress" signs and had to use portable, air-conditioned bathrooms.


Next year will be a different story.

"The first thing people want to see when they get off the plane is a bathroom," said Becky Shealy of Augusta Aviation Inc. "The new building will have nice bathrooms and nice waiting areas for the public that's in line with the true representation of Augusta."

Major renovations and expansion work are under way on the almost 60-year-old terminal. The project is scheduled to be finished in November.

"It's a good thing, because it will bring us into the year 2011," Shealy said. "Airports are a major gateway to any city. When people get off the aircraft, what they see is their first impression of the city, and it's a lasting impression."

Funded by Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax VI, the construction is by Pinnacle Custom Builders Inc. and includes asbestos and curb removal, replacing a spiral staircase with an elevator, new finishing on the floors, and a large, open room with two balconies for large crowds, events and a lounge area for pilots.

The airport was remodeled once in the 1970s, but still needed a lot of work to bring it up to Americans With Disabilities Act accessibility codes, Shealy said. Because of its age, it basically was a lean-to. The renovated terminal will be 30 feet larger in the front and the balconies resemble gable-style windows.

"Architect Virgo Gambill kept it in line with the old Southern style houses of the city," Shealy said.

The new building also will house the offices of Augusta Aviation, the fixed base operator of Daniel Field. During the renovation, the offices and terminal are set up in a temporary 3,400 square foot modular office.

"Obviously, we'll appreciate getting back in the new terminal," Shealy said. "It's exciting to remember what the old terminal looked like and that we are building where it was. Being in the same spot is sentimental."

Shealy is the interim airport manager, replacing Edward Toney, who started in January 2010, but resigned four months later to take care of a family matter.

"It had nothing to do with the city or the airport," Shealy explained. "He left on very good terms."

The General Aviation Commission, whose members are appointed by the Augusta Richmond County Commission and the Richmond County legislative delegation, oversee operations of Augusta Aviation. Shealy said the airport generates revenue for the city through its customer base who pay ad valorem taxes and fuel sales tax.

"If the airport were not here, those pilots and customers would have to go somewhere else and pay taxes there and get fuel there," she said.

According to the City of Augusta's Web site, the airport brings in several hundred thousand in taxes each year, and employs approximately 50 people.