GEORGETOWN — The Georgetown-Scott County Regional Airport celebrated improvements Thursday that were fast-tracked after it was announced that the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games were coming to Lexington.
Visitors, including government and airport leaders, attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday just outside a new $1.3 million terminal building. The terminal was one of several improvements made within the past two years. The runway also was extended and resurfaced.
More than $8 million — mostly from federal funds, including grants — was spent on work at the airport, on U.S. 460 in Scott County near Exit 125 of Interstate 75.
The ceremony marked a milestone in the airport's history of about 17 years.
Airport board chairman James Calloway said the projects were expedited because of the Games, which start Saturday at the Kentucky Horse Park, part of which sits in Scott County. But the improvements, which will last long after visitors to the Games have returned home, were necessary.
"It was on our plan prior to the Games," Calloway said.
In 2007, a consulting firm estimated that 200 additional planes would fly into Central Kentucky because of WEG and that 30 percent would fly into Scott County.
On Thursday, Calloway said the airport already had begun taking reservations from corporations and people planning to travel through the Scott County airport for WEG. Because some private flights don't make reservations, he was unable to say exactly how much extra traffic his airport would see.
Scott County Judge-Executive George Lusby said the money the county has spent on the airport — about $100,000 a year — is worth the return. And Lusby thanked taxpayers, saying "this is where the money comes from."
Winn Turney, commissioner of the state department of aviation, said the state was fortunate to have the airport.
"It's a jewel, frankly," Turney said.
A Federal Aviation Administration representative said he was pleased to visit the county Lusby often calls "the greatest place in the world to live."
The renovation money "was very well spent," said Doug Murphy, an administrator for the FAA Southern Region, which covers Kentucky, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Calloway later told the crowd that the airport had its own saying: "Corporate America does not come to town by bus."