Nearly one year after Brandon landed daily air service, the city has been given clearance for a multimillion-dollar terminal expansion project.
The much-anticipated announcement came yesterday at McGill Field, when Brandon-Souris MP Larry Maguire confirmed the federal government will pick up one-third of the $8.8-million project.
"I can’t stress enough how this important project will contribute to the economic growth and productivity of this region," Maguire said. "It’ll benefit families and it’ll help create jobs. Brandon’s modern air terminal will enable local businesses to compete in the highly competitive and globalized economy."
Both the city and province announced months ago that they would share costs for the other two-thirds of the project. The city submitted its application for the federal government’s New Building Canada Fund more than three months ago, and officials have been waiting anxiously for the approval.
"We’re pretty excited it came together exactly how we thought it would," said city manager Scott Hildebrand. "There wasn’t a lot of changes, additions or deletions. The proposal was as is — they partnered with us, so that was great."
The major overhaul will see the airport terminal building expanded to three times its current size, to better accommodate daily air service provided by WestJet, and potentially attract service growth.
Plans also include a spacious boarding lounge, a dedicated check-in area, additional space for security screening, separate arrivals area, new baggage carousel and improved network connectivity via fibre optic installation.
It’s too late to get started during this construction season; however, Hildebrand says work will begin with architectural drawings and necessary tenders. Shovels should hit the ground next spring.
"We hope by January we’ll actually have the tenders done and … out to the development community and be able to start the build in spring," he said.
The completion date is expected to be 12 to 18 months from now.
Mayor Shari Decter Hirst was thrilled by the announcement and said an expanded airport terminal will be Brandon’s "doorway to the rest of the world."
"I want to welcome you to McGill Field. This is our field of dreams, and I say that because I believe that if we build it, they will come," she said.
The expanded terminal will accommodate at least 100 passengers, which Decter Hirst points out could open the door to jet service.
Premier Greg Selinger confirmed the province will provide $2.9 million to the project.
"We’re pleased to be part of something that’s going to make for a bigger, better, more prosperous Brandon," he said. "This southwest region is an important part of the province, and we want to continue to see it thrive and grow."
WestJet Encore began its daily air service between Brandon and Calgary last September. City officials say construction will work around WestJet’s schedule to ensure there is no disruption.
"We’ll work with WestJet to ensure that they get timely arrivals and departures," Hildebrand said. "We’ll continue to ... try to find other solutions to go east and west, so hopefully add new routes."
About 50 people attended the announcement Tuesday afternoon, including the family of Ed McGill.
"I know he would be so happy, so we’re thrilled," said McGill’s daughter, Patti Mazer. "It was a very special time when the dedication was made for him, because he was a very quiet, humble person and was truly honoured."
Brandon’s airport was renamed McGill Field in the early 1970s in his honour. McGill was a Second World War veteran pilot who returned to Brandon after the conflict and devoted his time and effort to retaining the city’s airport facilities.
McGill, who would later serve three terms as the Progressive Conservative MLA for Brandon West, was chief instructor of the Brandon Flying Club and served as its secretary-manager for more than 25 years.
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