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Rapid City Regional breaks ground on new expansion

The departures entrance to the Rapid City Regional Airport.
Rapid City Regional Airport
The departures entrance to the Rapid City Regional Airport.

Officials have broken ground a major expansion project at the Rapid City Regional Airport.

The new developments at the airport should help accommodate the expected increase in use, but travelers might not necessarily see those changes.

Airport executive director Patrick Dame said this is mostly a “behind the scenes” update. Think TSA checkpoints and baggage areas.

“Today, those areas are things that haven’t been touched since the building was built in the late 80s. We’ve done a lot of improvements to those places passengers have seen but we haven’t done a lot of improvements to those places people need to work,” Dame said.

Dame, pointing to the decade-long growth plan, said this project will help see the airport into the future.

“There’s three projects to the overall terminal expansion," Dame said. "Right now, we’re currently launching phase one of project one. We’ve got to build what we consider the ‘head house expansion’ for the processing of passengers and baggage as being the first major hurdle of the project to make sure we’ve got the capacity for the additional gates that go onto the facility into the future.”

The current concourse has seven jet bridges and two gates. The proposed final blueprint would have space for seven additional jet bridges and two extra airplane parking areas.

With the Black Hills growing in population and popularity as a tourism destination, Dame said the airport will play a key role in the local economy.

“We’re trying to get a good jump head start into developing all this and making sure we can keep pace with the development of the community," Dame said. "The biggest piece of this is the number two income driver for South Dakota right now is tourism. Tourism is the Black Hills. Air service is a means for people to get here, being able to attract more airlines and nonstop destinations that are there for our folks to get out of here, but also for tourism to be able to get into here more efficiently than they are today.”

Funding for the project will come from the Federal Aviation Administration and airport revenues.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture