The new $4.4 million terminal building for the Athens-Ben Epps Airport was opened Friday with a blue ribbon cutting ceremony.
“Sometimes we don’t realize what this airport really does, and how valuable and important this airport is going to be for the community,” Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Harry Sims said as dozens of people gathered for the dedication.
“We are really looking forward to the opportunity to have planes landing out here where you can get on a plane in Athens, Georgia, and fly to Washington and New York and you don’t have to take a two-hour drive to get to Atlanta,” Sims said.
The 18,000-square-foot terminal was built with Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax money, which Athens Mayor Nancy Denson said was part of the 2005 SPLOST program.
The old terminal was nearly 70 years old and needed to be replaced, she said.
Among the tenants in the terminal are the Transportation Security Administration office, rental car space for two agencies, passenger and bag screening areas, flight school space, and it has space for future needs such as more ticket counters for airlines.. A backup generator was built to provide for the entire building.
The building was constructed by Kevin Price Construction Co., and they contracted with many local businesses for materials and services, Denson said.
Among those attending the dedication was Pat Epps, the son of the airport’s namesake Ben Epps. Inside the terminal’s lobby are historical pictures and information on Epps, the first man in Athens to fly a plane.
Epps, who was only 3 years old when his father was killed in a plane crash in 1937, said his father predicted that one day this airport would “take people to all spots around the world.”
Epps, now 83 and president of Epps Aviation in Atlanta, said he was proud the airport is named for his father.
The University of Georgia football team was scheduled to fly out of the airport Friday afternoon on a chartered flight.
“Our football team now leaves from here and that’s a safety issue for our team,” Sims said.“The coaches love it because they can be home five minutes after they land.”