Construction projects, which have taken more than a year to complete, are coming to a close at the McKinnon-St. Simons Island Airport. The work included separate projects — a hotel and a new terminal building containing the airport’s Fixed Based Operator or (FBO), as well as work on the airport’s secondary runway.
The new hotel and terminal complex was spearheaded by two companies in partnership: Golden Isles Aviation and S&J SSI. The work began in the summer of 2015 with the demolition of the former terminal and the establishment of a temporary terminal building to serve pilots. MMI Hotel Group, the company that also owns the King and Prince Resort on St. Simons Island, will operate the hotel — a new Home2 Suites by Hilton which will offer 88-rooms along with several amenities for guests. The new terminal will be adjacent to the hotel and include 6,000 square feet of space. That building will include rental car agencies, a lobby, conference rooms and a pilots’ lounge. There will also be an outdoor landscaped area.
Final finishing touches are currently being put on the hotel and it is expected to open Friday. Once it does, Bart Johnson will serve as general manager with Susan Christian as the director of sales.
The terminal building, according to Golden Isles Aviation owner Larry Wade, will follow in the very near future.
“It’s going well and we will open toward the end of the month. The hotel will open a little ahead of the terminal building,” Wade said. “But our customers have really enjoyed the temporary terminal building. I think they are going love the new place even more. There will be a lot of facilities and amenities for them. It’s going to be a great front door for our community to the folks that are flying in. It will give us more ability to serve our customers.”
The package — the hotel and the terminal building — will offer a unique combination for aviators. And Wade expects it to be a rousing success once it is open. It’s a big moment for him and his partners who have worked on the project for more than a decade, Wade said.
“It’s exciting for us. It has been a dream or vision for about 10 years. There’s been a lot of work done through the airport commission, the state and the FFA,” he said. “We are really glad to have the partnership with MMI. Not only do they know the community, through their ownership of the King and Prince Hotel, but they are also aviators. The CEO is a pilot and when we approached them about this they thought it was a great concept.”
Other work has been underway at the airport, albeit much less visible. Runway 16/34, the airport’s secondary runway, was also completely resurfaced. The project included three phases of paving and upgrades. That included repaving the surface, new runway and taxiway marker lighting, partial rehabilitation of the shoulder pavement, new lighted airfield and directional signage, a new precision path approach indicator (PAPI) guidance system and a new supplemental wind cone. Numerous electrical upgrades, including new cabling and conduit were made as well.
Work on this area began in September 2016. All of the various projects were done concurrently to avoid multiple closures of the runway. While this runway was inaccessible, the primary runway, 4/22, remained in service.
The methods used to conduct the upgrades were environmentally friendly, utilizing cold-in-place recycling technology. The airport was chosen by state officials to showcase this innovative technique in aviation paving. The procedure reuses previous materials as the foundation layer without removing, transporting, heating or storing asphalt. In the future, more general aviation facilities throughout the state will use the same method due to the success seen on St. Simons Island.
A total of 5,550 tons of repurposed and new paving material was laid down on the runway, enough to pave a 12-foot road for 5.4 miles. A total of 50,200 linear feet of power and lighting cable, equivalent to nine and half miles, was installed. Seaboard Construction Company of Brunswick was the general contractor with RS&H Inc., of Jacksonville providing engineering, design and construction administration services.
The runway work was paid for through a combination of state and federal funds from multiple fiscal years. Local matching funds were also used. The projects brought $441,838 in FAA funding and $1,506,548 from Georgia Department of Transportation’s Aviation Program into the community. The remaining sum, $524,855, was provided by the Glynn County Airport Commission.
For Robert Burr, executive director of the airport, finishing the construction work is a milestone, one that he believes will benefit the area in the future.
“We are very pleased to announce the opening of Runway 16/34 today. These upgrades will offer excellent safety and service on St. Simons for many years to come,” he said.