Scottsdale Airport embarks on year-long renovation bolstered by bustling air traffic

An artist’s rendering of the Scottsdale Airport. (submitted photo)

With over 300 flights in and out of the Scottsdale Airport daily, which generates hundreds of millions of dollars annually, the local airport is fastening its seat belt in preparation to take off on a year-long redevelopment project.

The Terminal Area Redevelopment project will bring two new executive hangers, a new Aviation Business Center and the Scottsdale Airport Thunderbird Field II Plaza. The new business center will include a new restaurant, outdoor patio seating and an event venue.

Demolition of the current terminal is expected to commence this summer, with a summer 2018 finishing date, according to a Scottsdale Airport press release.

Just off Scottsdale Road at 15000 N. Airport Drive, the airport is a general aviation reliever facility without commercial service, serving many of the Valley’s corporate aircraft.

Scottsdale City Council approved an update to the Airport Master Plan on May 12, 2015, which cited the need for more executive hangar space and led to the redevelopment.

This project is estimated to cost $27 million and will be financed through Municipal Property Corporation bonds. This does not include the Scottsdale Airport Thunderbird Field II Plaza as tourism development funds will help to fund that.

The city issues these bonds and are paid with revenue from the lease agreements and ancillary business permit fees. Those revenues generated directly from the new project will cover debt payments over 20 years, Aviation Planning & Outreach Coordinator Sarah Ferrara said in a March 30 email.

Based on a 2015 study for an Airport Master Plan update, statistics show the airport’s impact on Scottsdale coffers, Ms. Ferrara said.

The airport and airpark generated about $536 million total economic benefits for the region in the fiscal year of 2014. In addition, the airport provided about 588 aviation jobs to help cater to the average of 385 aircrafts that arrive and depart from it each day.

Visitors arriving at Scottsdale Airport spent about $44 million off the airport and supported about 452 hospitality industry jobs in the area, Ms. Ferrara said.

The study also concluded on an average day, visitors contribute $120,000 to the area economy.

An overnight visiting travel party arriving via private jet spends an average of $5,255 during their stay in the Scottsdale area.

“Someone once said ‘to measure the heartbeat of your city, measure the pulse of your airport.’ By all accounts, Scottsdale Airport’s pulse is very strong.” Aviation Director, Gary Mascaro said in a March 31 emailed response to questions.

“We are fortunate to have a premier jet facility in the heart of Scottsdale.”

(submitted photo)

Better utilization

The Airport Master Plan outlined a need to better utilize “prime airport property.”

Replacing the old terminal and business center will be a new aviation business center and two 30,000-square-foot, executive-type hangars, according to a press release. Each new hangar will have direct runway access with 28-foot doors and a private fuel facility onsite.

According to Mr. Mascaro, this project — especially the new executive hangars — are important to the airport.

“The airport needs more executive hangar space to accommodate the current and future aircraft parking demand,” Mr. Mascaro explained. “These will be two of the largest on airport hangars.”

A new restaurant will also be coming to the Aviation Business Center which will feature a new banquet facility and meeting rooms. The owner of Zulu Caffe will manage the new restaurant and banquet facility.

With all the new changes coming, Mr. Mascaro said he is excited to transform this piece of airport property into a “valuable community amenity.”

“The goal is to make this a ‘place’ — a welcoming place for the community, to visitors, to the aviation community and to our military service members,” he said. “Somewhere to visit, stay awhile and experience the airport.”

While these changes are underway, it will be business as usual for the airport, Mr. Mascaro said.

One change to occur will be aviation staff are relocating to the operations center while construction is moving along.

All car rental services have now ceased services to Scottsdale Airport. However, both Enterprise/National/Alamo Rental Agency and Hertz Rental Cars will continue to offer services at an offsite location.

The construction is not anticipated to cause any other operation impacts, Mr. Mascaro said.

Scottsdale Airpark 1980 (photo by Scottsdale Historical Society)

A veterans memorial

The Scottsdale Airport Thunderbird Field II Plaza has been about 75 years in the making.

The airport was originally Thunderbird Field II — one of three Thunderbird Fields in the Valley — and was used to train World War II Army Air Corps pilots, according to the Thunderbird II Veterans Memorial website.

Arizona State Teachers College (now Arizona State University) acquired field after the war for its aviation program before it was sold to the Arizona Conference of Seventh Day Adventists in 1953.

The city of Scottsdale purchased the airfield portion in 1966 and continues to operate it today.

It is this history that Steve Ziomek, airport advisory committee commissioner, said prompted the memorial plaza.

“Nobody knows the history of the field, so the veterans memorial is designed to commemorate the rich history of the field and to honor all veterans,” Mr. Ziomek said in an April 3 phone interview.

This memorial will include a Boeing-Stearman PT-17 as well as a park-like plaza to showcase the field’s history and contribution to World War II. This aircraft is similar to those flown during the field’s World War II flight training days.

To bring this memorial into reality, the nonprofit organization Thunderbird Field II Veterans Memorial, Inc. will provide the Boeing-Stearman PT-17 and artifacts while the city will fund the structure itself, Mr. Ziomek said.

The projected cost of the plaza’s construction and design is $412,500, according to a city staff report from a Jan. 24 council meeting.

Council approved the use of tourism development funds at the Jan. 24 meeting, contradicting the Tourism Development Commission’s 4-3 vote against the funding request.

Councilman Guy Phillips said this project is an overdue tribute to both the airport’s history and the veterans who trained there.

“I am very proud of our city council for approving the funding request as this will become a feather in our city’s cap for future generations to come,” he said in a March 31 email response.

“Not only is this a great tribute to our veterans but an educational benefit to our school children who can now learn about the role Thunderbird Field II played during World War II.”

This project should begin along with the other redevelopment projects this summer and is planned to wrap up in the summer of 2018.

News Services Reporter Josh Martinez can be contacted at or at 623-445-2738

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