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New airport terminal opens door for expansion

Revamped look at Sioux Lookout Airport built with passengers in mind

Construction is well underway on expansion of the passenger terminal building at the Sioux Lookout Airport.

Work on the $15.6-million project began last September with Penn-Co Construction of Manitoba handling the refurbishment and enlargement of the building with Stantec on the design work.

Completion of the project is scheduled for April 2018.

With the steel structure on the addition already up and new floors poured, all the air carriers were temporarily relocated to the new section of the terminal during the second weekend in June to enable contractors to begin renovations on the building’s older section.

Airport manager Ben Hancharuk said when they released the request for qualifications on the design-build project, he stressed it was important to select a contractor with expertise on airport projects. It had to remain a functioning airport at the same time as construction was occurring.

Built in the early 1980s, the existing 16,684 square foot building is being enlarged on three sides to 33,777-square feet. The last renovations were done in the mid-1990s.

“The original design was for 55,000 passengers annually and we’ve been average 120,000.”

The building refurbishment was designed to handle the current volume and give the facility more elbow room to grow.

“The current airlines and operators will have the room they need in the back of the house that’s more conducive to business,” said Hancharuk.

For the first time, the baggage make-up area will be indoors, instead of inside a temporary fabric shelter, with three tugs serving three airlines.

Hancharuk said what the travelling public will see with the upgraded building is an adequate seating area, a proper passenger queuing area, a new exterior facade, a reconfigured service road and expanded parking lot to accommodate both short-term and long-term stays, all with electrical plug-ins.

Inside, they’ll be new airline service counters, a modern heating system, and a state-of-the-art flight information display system. Concessions will be new and much improved with a coffee shop, full-service restaurant and possibly a gift shop for souvenirs.

“A way more enjoyable and efficient traveller experience,” said Hancharuk.

Before the reconstruction started, the leases on the concession tenants weren’t renewed.

“We’re basically starting from scratch,” said Hancharuk, who will be going out for expressions of interest shortly.

Hancharuk said he’s already fielded plenty of inquiries about providing concession services.

"I’ve had a lot of calls and interest already as to how they go about getting into the new terminal. We’re confident we’ll fill the spaces and have the variety there.”

Air carriers frequenting the facility include Wasaya Airways, North Star Air and Bearskin Airways, who shares counter space with Manitoba’s Perimeter Aviation.

Perimeter has launched a new service into northwestern Ontario from Winnipeg and with two aircraft now stationed in Sioux Lookout to service the route is flying into seven remote communities north of town and providing flights into Thunder Bay.

“It’s been good for us,” said Hancharuk. “We’ve seen a definite increase in activity based on that competition, for sure.”

Both Bearskin and Perimeter are owned by Exchange Income Corporation, owners of Keewatin Air and Calm Air, among other aviation and manufacturing holdings.

Longer term, Hancharuk said the main runway needs to be repaved along with lighting upgrades which is consistent with aging airport infrastructure.