Construction has begun on 120 hangars at the Marana Northwest Regional Airport to provide inside parking for additional planes and cut into the waiting list of 268 aircraft owners who want to keep their planes there.
The construction is part of a plan to spend $4 million over the next year on airport improvements designed to make the airport a centerpiece of industrial development in the area, said Charles Mangum, airport manager.
The Marana Town Council has approved $4.2 million for the airport, down $300,000 from last year's budget, to improve runway capacity and safety, which will help fulfill plans to turn the area into an industrial zone.
The hangar improvements will consist of eight buildings that will house from 10 to 16 planes each, said Kirk Bentson, general manager for Pima Aviation, a private company owned by Harold and Gary Abrams, which runs the airport on land leased from the town of Marana. The work is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.
Currently, the airport provides outdoor ramp space for about 45 planes and has additional space for 50 others, but has seen little demand for that space, Bentson said.
With the indoor hangars, Bentson said he expects to see a rash of aircraft owners moving from Tucson International Airport, Ryan Field and airports in their home states to be closer to business interests and their homes in Marana.
"This is going to bring a lot more people here on a regular basis," boosting demand for housing, hotels, restaurants and a wide range of other businesses, Bentson said.
For the airport itself, the improvements are expected to require an increase in employees from about 40 to 50 to fuel and tow them, provide maintenance and furnish other customer services, he said.
As of Aug.1, in conjunction with the improvements, rates will increase for the first time in more than nine years, rising from a range of $205 to $488 a month to $225 to $540, depending on the size of the hangar and the plane, he said.
The airport also is developing a series of about a dozen lots for long-term leases for those plane owners who want to build their own hangars, and is building a large bay hangar to be used for business jets and other large aircraft with both permanent and temporary storage situations.
Recent voter approval of a $732 million bond issue for open space acquisition, public facilities, sewers and other purposes included $2.8 million to design and build a sewer system for the airport. Marana has identified the project as critical for expanding the town's industrial base at the airport, located five miles west of I-10 on Avra Valley Road. Pima County's wastewater department would assume the estimated $6,000 per year it will cost to maintain the three-mile line, which is paid for through taxpayers' sewer fees. Construction would begin between 2004 and 2006 and would be completed no later than 2010.