Williamson County Airport has taken a new name – Veterans Airport of Southern Illinois. Its renaming honors those who’ve served their country, and commemorates an important addition – the all-new Captain Robert W. Duncan Airline Terminal.
Talks of adding the new terminal began in 2006 when Allegiant Air and Williamson County Airport started to consider offering biweekly flights to and from Las Vegas. There was a lot to be planned at the airport that, at the time, didn’t even have the parking space to accommodate these added travelers. RS&H was enlisted to administer a terminal area improvement planning study.
As the process began, the airport put some important interim solutions into place. A double-wide modular trailer on the ramp served as a holding area for passengers. Baggage claim was relocated to the front of the building with several roll-up doors being cut into the brick wall to allow for pick-up.
While these temporary modifications were being made to make passenger flights manageable, the airport struggled to obtain funding for its permanent terminal. The FAA will commission projects through its Airport Improvement Program, but only for those airports with 10,000 or more enplanements per year.
While this had not been a problem originally, turbulent economic changes led to a significant decrease in traffic, forcing RegionsAir, the lone airline serving the airport at the time, to go out of business. Great Lakes Airlines then offered air services for nearly two years but was still unable to bring enplanements above 10,000 per year. Despite the setbacks, RS&H was able to continue with the study throughout this time.
Finally, in 2010, Cape Air came to the airport and was able to bring the annual enplanements back up above 10,000 with more available flights and lower prices. The airport was once again eligible for FAA funding.
With the study completed, RS&H then worked with the airport to plan the design of the facility. In early 2013, the FAA approved it and agreed to provide the AIP funding the airport needed to move forward.
With a two-story great hall, barrel-vaulted ceiling, and large expanses of glass wash interior rooms, the finished space has a modern, open feel complemented by plenty of warm, natural textures and finishes. One of the most impressive aspects of the facility is the ceiling in the great hall area with a steel and glulam bamboo timber system.
“We were pleased to find a strong and sustainable product,” said RS&H architect Andrew Nelson. “The system allows for large spans using economical pieces of lumber and steel. It worked very well in helping us create the expansive arch in the great hall.”
The new terminal is 23,000 square feet and, even more importantly, equipped with expansion capabilities. Some of the added features include a curbside canopy, baggage chute, and 216 new parking spaces. There are also new restrooms and a 100-seat holding room for larger groups.
“We feel great satisfaction at the completion of this beautiful terminal structure,” said Airport Authority Chairman Bernard Paul. “It will mean so much in shaping the careers and futures of the people of southern Illinois.”
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