Fayette County

After record year, Blue Grass Airport plans $35 million in updates

Aerial photo of the Blue Grass Airport, and part of runway 26, in 2006.
Aerial photo of the Blue Grass Airport, and part of runway 26, in 2006. cbertram@herald-leader.com

Blue Grass Airport is planning nearly $35 million in updates including additional hangars for private planes, a new baggage system and additional parking.

The regional airport based in Lexington needs to make the updates to remain competitive and better serve a growing number of passengers, said Eric J. Frankl, the executive director of the airport.

“We had 637,000 departures last year,” Frankl said. “That’s a new record.”

The construction will take two to three years to complete, he said.

Much of the money, nearly $20 million, will go toward a new rental car maintenance garage that will serve the four rental car companies on the airport’s grounds. The current maintenance building is outdated.

A new baggage belt system — which moves luggage from behind ticket counters to the aircraft and from the aircraft to baggage pickup — also will be part of the upgrade.

Passengers don’t see the belt system, but it’s a key part of the airport’s operations. And it’s more than 18 years old.

“It runs nearly all the time and it’s beyond its useful life,” Frankl said. “It breaks down all the time.”

That belt system is expected to cost $5 million.

The airport is nearing its capacity for hangar space for private airlines. To accommodate growth, the airport plans to build one large hangar that can be used for multiple airplanes and five smaller hangars for one plane each.

Lastly, the airport wants to improve and possibly expand its parking.

“We have experienced a lot of growth,” Frankl said. “We are still exploring what those parking improvements will look like.”

Frankl said construction on some of the projects will start next spring. But Frankl said it’s not clear which project will be started first.

The bonds for the project were approved Thursday by the Lexington Urban County Council. The airport generates its own revenue and doesn’t receive any local tax dollars, but its bonds must be issued by the city.

“We felt that we needed to take advantage of these low interest rates now,” Frankl said.

Beth Musgrave: 859-231-3205, @HLCityhall