The Van Wert County Courthouse

Tuesday, Jul. 23, 2024

Ground broken on local airport terminal

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

This artist’s conception shows an exterior view of the new JL Rice Terminal building being constructed at Walter Hinton Airfield (Van Wert County Regional Airport). photos by Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent

The first of two major projects needed to fully enhance the development capabilities of the Van Wert County Regional Airport broke ground on Saturday morning.

A number of airport and development stakeholders, including philanthropist Scott Niswonger and his wife, Nikki, both Van Wert natives, as well as local and state officials, were on hand for a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a new terminal building on the airport’s south side.

Airport Authority Board member Fred Fisher acted as emcee for the event, while a number of people, including Niswonger, State Representative Craig Riedel, and Airport Authority Board member Mike Keysor spoke during the event.

Scott Niswonger spoke of the development benefits of the new terminal.

Keysor spoke first and spoke of the operational benefits and enhancements that would come from a new terminal building, as well as from the other important future need: lengthening of the airport’s main runway from 4,000 to 5,000 feet to allow larger corporate jets to land here.

He first talked about the possibilities afforded users of the local airport, especially those disenchanted with the “mass travel mentality” that means going to a big airport where passengers go through TSA security checks, sit in a terminal, and get on a plane, all with a lot of other people. 

“I think in today’s environment, that’s a real challenging scenario,” Keysor said, adding he can get on a plane in Van Wert and be in St. Louis in two hours without the hassle of TSA or long waits. 

Having a nice terminal would be a plus for passengers seeking to fly from the local airport to other destinations.

Airport Manager Steve Bailey noted that the new 4,600-square-foot terminal building, to be named for J.L. Rice, a former airport manager who encouraged youngsters like Niswonger and others back in the 1960s to consider getting their pilot’s license, replaces the current 300-square-foot facility constructed in 1939. Bailey said the new terminal will have a board room, a stand-alone pilot’s lounge, complete with shower and restroom, and a flight training center.

“It’s going to be beautiful inside,” he said, noting that local contracting firm Alexander & Bebout will be acting as general contractor for the terminal project.

Niswonger, who got fundraising started with a challenge a match any dollars raised locally, added that the facility, which will cost more than $1 million when completed sometime next year, is being funded through private donations only.

Niswonger also noted that he and Rice’s son, Jim, both graduates of Purdue University, are working to get a Purdue Flight Training Center located at the new terminal.

“It will really be a good day for us when we walk into the terminal building and see a Purdue University Flight School Training Center sign hanging within that building,” he said.

Niswonger also talked about the development impact of the airport, especially in conjunction with the industrial megasite north of Van Wert.

“When people are looking for a fresh site — and certainly we have one on the north side of town — the second or third thing that economic development people are looking for is the airport,” he said, adding that a new terminal and longer runway would be critical to enhancing local development.

Keysor also talked about the development benefits that would accrue with having a local airport with a new terminal building and a 5,000-square-foot runway, and noted that it would provide a “welcome door” into the community, while also providing another item needed to grow the community, along with the current hospital expansion project due for completion later this year, and The Landings at Dickinson Farms residential subdivision, where new houses are now being built.

Riedel was on hand to provide a commendation from the Ohio House of Representatives for the airport in honor of the project.

Following the speakers, stakeholders in the project grabbed shovels to officially break ground on the new building.

Airport stakeholders break ground on the new JL Rice Terminal building.

POSTED: 08/31/20 at 6:46 am. FILED UNDER: News