Appleton International Airport this week broke ground on a $66 million expansion that will double the size of the airport and could boost its economic impact to $1 billion.
Funded with the help of state, federal and regional grants, the 47,000-square-foot expansion of the airport’s main concourse is scheduled for phased completion beginning in late 2025.
The Appleton airport is the fastest-growing airport in Wisconsin in terms of foot traffic, and in 2018 surpassed the Green Bay Austin Straubel International Airport as the state’s third-busiest, officials said. Allegiant Airlines, American Airlines, Delta and United airlines have flights from the airport.
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This year, it’s expected to serve nearly 950,000 passengers by the end of the year, up from more than 850,000 passengers last year and 720,083 in 2021.
“The need for this expansion really comes from our growth and development for several years,” said Airport Director Abe Weber. “Outside of COVID, we’ve grown at double-digit passenger numbers, percentage wise, going all the way back to 2016.”
Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson described the airport as the “most important piece of economic real estate in northeast Wisconsin,” supporting over 3,000 jobs. He said the expansion is key to increasing the airport’s economic impact, both in northeast Wisconsin and across the state.
“This is going to be the point where this airport goes from (supporting) $700 million of economic activity per year to $1 billion of economic activity every year,” Nelson said. “That only happens with a strong community that has supported us through thick and thin, in good times and bad times.”
The first phase of the terminal expansion includes expanding the number of gates to 10, expanding boarding areas and adding a Biergarten and an additional restaurant.
Future construction will expand the facility’s ticketing and baggage claim areas as well as revamp the airport’s existing concourse areas.
In planning the project nearly three years ago, Weber said officials surveyed the community to find out what changes they’d like to see.
“We have a very passionate and dedicated team serving our community,” he said. “Our goal is always to find out what our community travel needs are.”
State Sen. Rachael Cabral-Guevara, R-Appleton, said one of the things that sets Appleton International apart from larger airports is the short amount of time passengers have to wait between arriving at the facility and boarding a plane.
She also said the expansion’s impact will extend beyond the Fox Valley by enabling more visitors to come to Wisconsin from across the country.
“On numerous levels, this opportunity and this expansion is benefiting our entire state and all of our businesses,” she said. “I’m looking forward to all the other amazing things that are going to come out of (Appleton International Airport) here, and I don’t believe that this is the end of this expansion to this airport.”
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