KALISPELL — It was a momentous day in Kalispell Tuesday afternoon as dozens gathered for the official groundbreaking ceremony for a terminal expansion at Glacier Park International Airport.
A project years in the making is officially underway as the number of visitors traveling to the Flathead Valley continues to grow.
Airport Director Rob Ratkowski said the terminal expansion project will nearly triple the current square footage of the airport to almost 200,000 square feet.
“You know 15 months ago we had our slowest day in history with 21 passengers and three days ago we had our busiest day in history with over 3,000 passengers, so it’s been a roller coaster ride for sure but we’re back and we’re back strong and we’re definitely ready to go on the project and we really need it, so we’re excited to get going,” Ratkowski told MTN News.
Ratkowski said the project will take place in two phases over the next three years. He said expansion includes an increase in terminal gates as well as jet bridges, a full-service bar and restaurant past the security checkpoint, an escalator and more.
“It’s the culmination of four years of planning, so we’re excited to get going, we’re officially underway on our building and that just means that we’re going to be able to provide way better services for all of the huge influx of people that we’re seeing here,” said Ratkowski.
Ratkowski expects the passenger experience to remain largely unchanged through the busy summer season as construction gets underway.
“People are going to see things happening at the airport, it’s going to get a little bit clunky sometimes but we’re trying to do that work mostly offseason, we’re really trying to avoid this peak season like we’re in right now to make it just as seamless as possible for people,” added Ratkowski.
Ratkowski said the airport is seeing record-shattering air passenger traffic numbers this year.
“2019 was our record year ever, basically every month in 2019 was a record month, and we’re beating those 2019 records by 25% and 30%, so we’re seeing fantastic gains, you know really large gains in passenger traffic."
He added all phases of the expansion project are expected to be complete by 2024.