The brand new $4.5 million dollar Murfreesboro Airport is officially open for business. While there are still many finishing touches to be made, the pandemic is allowing the facility to take the time to get all of the new technology right instead of rushing, which they would have done to be ready for holiday parties now on hold.
More than an air terminal, the facility was designed to be used by businesses and the community. The spacious central lobby will eventually be available for parties, with several small gathering areas and a large open space that can house a number of bar top tables for receptions.
Divided in two parts, one side of the new airport houses a meeting room that can seat 100 in classroom-style or 80 at round tables. It is perfect for larger, more casual business meetings or it can be turned into a dining area for a special dinner or reception. Right across the hall is a full catering kitchen with everything needed to serve a meal, including a convection oven, industrial refrigerator, large sinks, ice maker, and a warmer. A more formal board room is just down the hall.
With the new technology being installed in the larger of the two meeting rooms, a city council meeting can be transmitted from the facility, or for a business meeting there is Wi-Fi, video, and the ability to do Zoom or Skype. The board room will also have the latest tech capabilities.
On the opposite side of the building is a classroom that will seat 60 people, as well as a pilot lounge with a sleeping area and a large walk-in shower. Often corporate pilots fly in in the morning and while business meetings are taking place they have nothing to do. This pilot lounge will offer them a place to nap, read, watch a movie, or they can rent a car and head off to the golf course for a round.
Currently, MTSU is renting the classroom. Their aerospace program has been growing steadily due to a pilot shortage. When COVID came along, this classroom allowed MTSU to spread students out and keep them safe. Right now, it is MTSU Department of Aerospace’s flight operations center.
Pre-pandemic, the Murfreesboro Airport had long outgrown the original 1952 terminal. A new space was much needed. While the pandemic has slowed things down some, according to Airport Manager Chad Gehrke, fuel sales continue to grow. As the economy has opened up, he is seeing sales equal to or slightly better than last year. Which is excellent considering what has been happening in the industry. They are also seeing an increase in business planes being flown into the airport.
The second-floor observation deck, initially suggested by the late City Councilman Doug Young, is a wonderful place for those who love to watch planes take off and land. Or to bring a lunch and just sit and enjoy the fall weather.
Gehrke feels that the building is everything that the city wanted because they chose to go with a design/build process, instead of using an architectural firm.
“We started traditionally with an architectural firm, but the project immediately got way out of control,” said Gehrke. “Then we decided to go with the design/build concept. We had eight to ten teams submit packages. After cutting it down to two, the proposals were put before the Public Building Authority. They chose Smith Design/Build.”
Blake Smith worked with architect Jim Lowen and City Project Manager Greg McKnight. It was a good team that brought the project in on time and on budget, while creating just what was needed. Because Smith used many local sub-contractors, Gehrke feels the workers took great pride in the outcome, as it was for their home.
“With the design/build concept,” explained Gehrke, “you tell the team you have so much money, and you need x amount of rooms, then it is their job to create a space that works, and is esthetically pleasing. Smith worked in a lot of great cubbies of extra space for small gatherings, or as office nooks. And there are wonderful views of the landing field from the meeting rooms.”
Eventually, they hope to use the walls to display art from local artists and open the exhibitions to the community.
A grand opening celebration is on hold due to COVID-19, but once things get back to some kind of normal, Gehrke says they plan to have a large celebration and ribbon cutting. They want to let the public and businesses know what they now have to offer.