On Friday, this reporter, along with other Townsquare Media personalities and personnel, were given a grand tour of the new Missoula International Airport terminal as it nears completion.

KGVO spoke with Airport Director Brian Ellestad for some details about the building first proposed in 2018 which is scheduled to be completed early next year.

“Well, you'll start to see that a lot of the final finishing work is getting done right now,” said Ellestad. “There’s a lot of the woodwork, kind of trying to soften the metal and steel that's in there. The ticket counters just got delivered earlier this week, and some of the concessions are finally starting to kind of get formed out. So you'll see you'll see a lot of the working construction area right now.”

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Ellestad briefly explained the budget for the new terminal.

“For what we're going to tour today it'll be $67 million, but we're actually going to be under that,” he said. “We're going to be under budget and then the next phase all in is somewhere in that $110 million total, it’s about $42 million for the next phase.”

Ellestad said the new terminal uses the space much more efficiently.

“It's great that we got to start over from the ground up,” he said. “This whole building has served us well. We have plenty of space but it's all in the wrong place. You know we have an oversized lobby. Now this (new building) is the right size for what we need for concessions and gates and ticket counter space.”

The next phase of the project will mean the demolition of the existing terminal and the construction of another new terminal.

“This will actually be a standalone structure,” he said. “We did tie it into the existing structure just in case funding isn't there for the next phase, but our intent is to fully decommission this one and just kind of copy paste the front. What you see here will be in the next phase and we hope to do a deconstruction of this current building, probably late summer of 22 and then put the foundations and steel in the ground thereafter.”

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Inside the new terminal, Deputy Airport Director Tim Damrow explained the fact that no local tax monies are being used for the new terminal building.

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“We're not using any local tax funds to build this portion of the facility,” said Damrow. “We as the airport do have the ability to have a local levy to help fund these types of projects. But one of the tenets and principles of aviation is that the facilities pay for themselves, so the user fees that you pay when you book a ticket on your respective carrier, a portion of that comes back to the airport to help fund projects like this in a sustainable way going forward.”

The massive structure, built by Martel Construction, will contain escalators, spacious arrival and departure gates, restaurants, bars, gift shops, energy efficient windows that will lighted and darken with the sun and restrooms for men, women and even dogs, complete with Astroturf and a red fire hydrant.

Ellestad said the official ribbon cutting at the new terminal is scheduled for 2/22/22, that’s February 22, 2022.

(all photos by Peter Christian)

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