California Flying

Livermore

December 1, 2007

Livermore isn't as inviting a name as Cedarville or Pine Mountain Lake, but rest assured. Livermore Municipal Airport is many things—it's a haven and a training center and one of the most transparently well run publicly owned, public-use airports in the state.

An asset to the community

The Livermore airport is a going concern. The airport is self-supporting and makes no bones about informing community leaders, local citizens, and airport users about the revenue stream it generates and how much the community benefits from its location. According to a 2001 study the Livermore airport contributed more than $57 million dollars to the local economy and supported more than 500 jobs. The city council is well-informed on the value of its airport and recently took action to maintain the business-like atmosphere at Livermore by approving the construction of a full-service FBO. In October the airport staff invited all the tenants to the sixth annual Fall Tenant Appreciation Day. That Thursday the staff donned work gloves and aprons and got out on the ramp to barbeque hot dogs, brats, and hamburgers for the people that use the airport. Every month each tenant receives a two-page newsletter, the LVK Transponder, which fills everyone in on upcoming and past events, and statistics generated during the preceding month on topics such as fuel sales, operations, and noise complaints. Transparency, a nose for generating revenue, and tenant appreciation create a winning airport attitude at Livermore.

Located in a fog-free pocket that's centrally located between the fog-affected airports of Oakland, Hayward, San Jose, San Carlos, Palo Alto, and San Francisco to the west, Concord to the north, and the central valley airports such as Merced and Modesto to the east, Livermore is often the best, certainly the nearest, and sometimes the only alternate when the unpredictable fogs of California roll in.

As an alternate, Livermore has it all. An ILS approach to Runway 25R, one restaurant on the field and another within easy walking distance, and motels just across the highway are like a dream come true for any pilots who have to stop short of their final destinations. There's even a 27-hole golf course abutting the airport. Yep, Livermore is a fine alternate, or $100 burger, or burger-and-golf stop. But a recent visit proved that there's more to Livermore than a well run and accommodating airport.

The Livermore Valley Wine Trail

In 1883 James Concannon founded the Concannon Vineyards. C.H. Wente started his vineyard the same year. The Livermore Valley thrived as a wine-growing region until prohibition was enacted in 1920. The Concannon and Wente vineyards survived partially because of their sacramental wine production. Today both of these vineyards anchor the 40-plus vineyards that form the Livermore Valley Wine Trail. Many of the vineyards double as event centers, catering to special events large and small. The fifth generation of the Wente family has added a Greg Norman-designed golf course that's open to the public, an event center, and a fine restaurant on the property.

Local public golf courses also include Los Positas, a par 70 course that's adjacent to the airport and amazingly affordable for non residents at $20 a round; and Poppy Hills, a 27-hole Rees Jones design that's a Northern California Golf Association (NCGA) home course. Golf greens fees are very affordable at all of the Livermore courses.

Downtown renovation

A young man I met while admiring The Bankhead Theater, Livermore's new 500-seat performing arts center, captured the new Livermore when he told me that when he arrived five years ago First Street was not an attractive place. "It's now a street where everyone is out walking in the evenings," he said.

The downtown renovation is most evident from the art deco-style Vine movie theater at First and O streets all the way down through Mill Square Park and on out First Street to the Bankhead Theater. Sidewalks have been widened, which has created a downtown that seems made for walking. This, in turn, has stimulated the introduction of a wide variety of restaurants and the beginnings of a small café society. In the space of one block, diners have a wide range of choices including a juice bar, Indian cuisine, Thai food, a Hawaiian BBQ, a Mexican grill, and a fondue restaurant.

Livermore has paid heed to the "if you build it, people will come," concept. As a result Livermore's pleasing downtown is a boon to its residents. The new downtown and a calendar of local events will soon lure pilots to regard Livermore more as a go-to destination instead of just a hidey-hole during bad weather.

The famous light bulb

Livermore hosts a diverse sampling of events. In 2008 the Scottish Games and Celtic celebration will be held at Robertson Park on May 17 and 18. Events include a gathering of the Clans, traditional dancing and music, and heavy athletic competitions such as putting the stone, the hammer throw, and turning the caber.

The Livermore Rodeo is billed as the fastest rodeo in the world because of non-stop rodeo action. In 2008 the rodeo takes place during the weekend of June 14 and 15. In the past the Livermore Rodeo has featured cowboy and cowgirl races, trick riding, trick and fancy roping, and classical rodeo events such as saddle bronc riding, bull riding, steer roping, and a crowd favorite, wild cow milking. Make plans to attend now.

Other annual events include the weeklong Independent Film Festival that's held during the third week of April.

Where?

Livermore is located in Alameda County. Its 22-square miles make up the easternmost city in the San Francisco Bay area. It is the "Gateway to the Central Valley," and the third wealthiest midsize city in the nation.

Wine events include the Wine Festival Downtown. First and Second streets are closed off to traffic and vendors transform downtown Livermore during the first weekend in May. The twenty-eighth annual Wine Harvest Festival will take place over Labor Day weekend in 2008.

A unique attraction in Livermore is a light bulb. This light bulb is so famous its been featured on CNN, NBC, ABC, and FOX-TV and has been visited by Charles Kuralt. Why? Simply because no less an authority than Ripley's Believe it or Not has certified that this carbon-filament four-watt incandescent bulb, which has been burning continuously since 1901, is the longest-burning light bulb in the world. It's located at Fire Station #6 at 4550 East Avenue.

There's a lot more in Livermore. Set your course to LVK, enjoy a fine airport, eat, golf, taste the Livermore Valley wines, stroll, enjoy—and become enlightened.

E-mail the author at steve.ells@aopa.org.