This is the first time that the games—which take place every four years and comprise the world championships for eight equestrian sports—have been held in the United States. The games are expected to bring more people to Central Kentucky than any equine event in recent memory.
Airport, state, and FAA officials cut a ribbon Aug. 4 to open Runway 9/27. The new 4,000-foot runway replaces the airport's previous 3,500-foot crosswind runway, 8/26. The airport's 2004 master plan update identified a need to reconstruct the pavement, and recommended building a new runway with a slightly different orientation. The new configuration will allow for more efficient airport land use and development of additional corporate and GA facilities, including new hangars and additional aircraft parking, the airport said. The $27 million project was paid for by the FAA, Kentucky Department of Aviation, and the airport.
"General aviation activity accounts for approximately 65 percent of the total operations at Blue Grass Airport," said Bobby Owens, chairman of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Airport Board. "This new runway is critical to allowing us to maintain the capability of landing lighter corporate and private aircraft during crosswind conditions.”
TAC Air, which operates the airport’s FBO, held its own ribbon cutting in late July to dedicate a new 12,000-square-foot executive terminal. Miniature jockeys wearing the colors of local tenants’ horse farms supported the ribbon.
“Building this facility from the ground up allowed us to design it around the needs of today’s general aviation customer,” said Christian Sasfai, TAC Air vice president and COO. It’s the first terminal built from the ground up by the 13-location FBO chain, he said. At the end of its 20-year lease, the $11 million terminal and accompanying hangar improvements will be turned over to the airport.
Inside the new terminal, visitors are greeted by a bright red replica of a Beechcraft Staggerwing suspended from the atrium ceiling. Introduced during the Great Depression, the model was considered heresy at the time—which is why TAC Air chose it for the atrium.
“When we made the decision to make an $11 million investment here at Blue Grass Airport, like when Beechcraft introduced the Staggerwing, it was during a tough time in general aviation,” said Greg Arnold, president and CEO of TAC Air’s parent, Truman Arnold Companies. “But here we are today at our newest flagship executive terminal, completed and ready to go for the World Equestrian Games.”
At the dedication Arnold made a $50,000 contribution in cash and services to The Aviation Museum of Kentucky, which is located on the field adjacent to the FBO. The new terminal will host a fundraising event being planned to benefit the museum.
TAC Air also opened 45,000 square feet of new hangar space in time for the equestrian games. Even after the games are completed, the company said, the hangar space will be a draw when the airport competes with other landing sites for overflow traffic during regional events such as the Kentucky Derby. TAC Air announced its construction plans in August 2009. In addition to the new terminal and hangar space, it purchased Air 51, an FBO that opened on the field in early 2008.