May 7, 2009
By Jill W. Tallman
As revitalization that began in 2004 continues at Albert Whitted Airport (SPG) in St. Petersburg, Fla., AOPA is keeping a watchful eye on the progress of improvements at this waterfront airport. A $2 million control tower was slated for construction this year, and bids were opened last week.
Airport Support Network volunteer Jack Tunstill met with Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of local airport advocacy, this week to brief him on the tower and other ongoing developments that affect Albert Whitted.
The airport was threatened in 2003 but, thanks to the efforts of airport advocates working closely with AOPA, a ballot measure to close the facility was defeated by a wide margin. Since then, the airport has opened a $4 million general aviation terminal, which marked the city’s first major investment in the airport. Plans for a new restaurant in the terminal building continue and is expected to be approved by the end of 2009.
Another topic on the table was the Grand Prix auto race that takes place each fall in St. Petersburg. The race is somewhat controversial because, though considered a significant tourism draw, part of it takes place on airport property. The race course goes through the streets of downtown St. Petersburg and crosses a taxiway and an FBO ramp at the airport. The airport is partially closed when cars are on the property.
“The FAA is concerned that the airport is not getting adequate revenue from the use of aviation facilities for nonaviation purposes during the Grand Prix, and they [the FAA] are planning to meet with the city to discuss the revenue arrangements,” Dunn said.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker cannot run for re-election in the upcoming September primary, Dunn noted. Nine candidates are running for the mayor’s office. Four have served on the city council in the past and are considered “pro airport,” but the remaining five aren’t known. Dunn is meeting with local officials to get a sense of the political landscape for this election.
While in Florida, Dunn also met with staff in the FAA’s Airport District Office in Orlando to discuss a number of important ongoing issues having an impact on the association’s members. These included tenant lease issues at Opa-Locka Executive, airport development plans and airport land releases at Pompano Beach Airpark, compliance and access restrictions at Valkaria, and the resolution of access restrictions at Witham Field airport.
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