Demolition work set to begin next month as airport begins terminal project

Passengers wait to collect their luggage at baggage claim at Missoula International Airport on Thursday. The airport will begin demolition work on the airport’s western wing next month as part of its larger terminal project. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

Demolition of the west wing of Missoula International Airport is set to begin next month, with excavation and foundation work slated over the summer.

By next fall, vertical construction on a new passenger terminal should begin.

“The building is going to be coming down and they’ll be making pretty good progress,” said project manager Tim Damrow. “I’d expect foundation and excavation to be well underway throughout the summer, and some vertical going up in the fall.”

During the first week of the new year, the airport will relocate several airline ticket counters and the jet bridge typically reserved for Allegiant Airlines.

Doing so, Damrow said, will vacate the last portion of the building set to be torn down next month.

“Jet Bridge One is in the way of the demo of the old building, so we’re moving that over,” he said. “There will be about a week or two where it’ll be out of service. But we have other gates for that to operate out of. That allows us to wall off and begin the demo work.”

The work represents years of planning as the airport marches down the road of building an eight-gate facility with room for expansion. It cleared a major hurdle this month when TSA moved its checkpoint to the center of what formerly served as the airport lobby.

Airport director Cris Jensen said the Federal Aviation Administration has been supportive throughout the process.

“The FAA has taken a keen interest in our terminal project and of course will be the source of a significant amount of funding,” Jensen said. “We’re very fortunate that they’re great partners and that they understand the need for a new terminal.”

The airport is still working on final design and hasn’t set upon a final project budget. As that process plays out, the airport is also working with Springsted, a financial firm, on structuring an appropriate bond to fund the project.

Unlike past years, changes to the federal tax law allow governments and nonprofits to refinance a bond just once. Springsted is working with the airport to structure that funding tool.

“They know what they’re doing, and they’ll give us some models to look at,” said Shane Stack, chairman of the Missoula County Airport Authority. “I just want to make sure the airport isn’t stuck paying a lot of money for a long time.”

Finance manager Teri Norcross said Springsted has experience working with airports, and working in the state of Montana. The same firm helped the city of Missoula finance its purchase of Mountain Water Co.

“They have substantial experience with airports and a lot of experience in this state,” said Norcross. “They have folks who understand state statute and local banks.”