News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 22, 2013

Airport still looking for restaurant

‘Zero’ interest shown despite potential

Dianne Frances D. Powell
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — The Terre Haute International Airport is still looking for a restaurant to operate in its facility.

“I don’t think we’re getting the message out there,” Executive Director Bill McKown said during Wednesday’s Airport Board meeting.

Despite the potential of serving more than 500 people a day, McKown said he received “zero input” for an operator. He told the board that he has started looking for options.

“The potential to serve is high,” he told the Tribune-Star. The future restaurant can expect to serve about 150 Indiana State University Flight Academy students, their instructors and staff, the airport’s employees, local businesses around the area and employees at the nearby Air National Guard.

McKown said he is open to showing the facility to potential restaurant operators, especially after a clean-up that has been done to the restaurant .

After the board meeting, members and staff toured the restaurant.

The previous restaurant operator, Louise’s Italian Fine Dining, left in February.

During the meeting, attorney Scott Craig told the board that the Vigo County Alcohol Beverage Commission approved the transfer of Louise’s liquor license to the airport. Final approval will be made on the state level, Craig said.

“It should make the airport restaurant more attractive,” to potential operators, he said.

“It saves a new restaurant operator the hassle and money to try to get the permit,” Craig told the board.

Also at the meeting, members were presented with the draft airport 2014 budget to be submitted this week to Vigo County for approval.

McKown also reported at the meeting that the new parking lot for the ISU Flight Academy has been completed. The building for the school, Building 12, which is right next to the terminal, also was renovated.

 Members and staff also toured that two-story building after the meeting. It features a new conference room, classrooms, offices, student-teacher briefing/debriefing rooms, a new fire escape and a lounge/study room with windows overlooking the runway.

The renovation took less than five months, McKown said, and was completed on Aug. 13. The airport and ISU shared the costs of renovations. The airport’s share was $600,000, McKown said.

Finally, the board said goodbye to two of its members. Vigo County-appointed Mike Calleja and city-appointed Hans Eilbracht both served for four years.

“It was a wonderful experience,” Calleja said. He said the board members are “good people doing great things for the community” with “great plans going forward as well.”

The two exiting members were presented with a runway light, their name plates and a mug at the beginning of the meeting.

“I really enjoyed serving on the airport board. It was eye-opening to see what an impact it has … what an asset it is to the community,” Eilbracht said.