Vista Field airport's final day to be Dec. 31

Big painted X's at the end of the runway are in Vista Field Airport's immediate future.

Dec. 31 will be the Kennewick airport's last day as a general aviation airport, after a unanimous decision Tuesday by the Port of Kennewick commission.

And commissioners approved a to-do list for the airport's closure and redevelopment as part of the same vote.

Commission President Skip Novakovich said they owed it to the public to follow through on their decision April 17 to close the airport.

Novakovich said he would like to see the port take out the runway as soon as economically feasible.

Demolishing the fixed-based operator building also is something that should be done sooner rather than later, he said.

Because that building is close to the Tri-Cities Business & Visitor Center, a developer might want that land sooner than other parts of the property, said port Executive Director Tim Arntzen.

The port is closing the airport near Kennewick's Three Rivers Convention Center in an effort to create a town center in place of the little-used airport.

The closure could open up 75 acres for the potential construction of more than 1 million square feet of retail, commercial, office and industrial buildings, according to a recent report. There also could be 1,400 condos or apartments on top of mixed-use buildings.

Marjy Leggett of Pasco, a pilot who favored keeping Vista Field open, asked the port to keep a detailed record of the closure costs.

Port Commissioner Don Barnes said the estimated cost is about $1.2 million, not including a $500,000 litigation fund if the port needs to be defended against any legal claims.

But Barnes said it's the port's intent to deal fairly with each tenant and airport user with the goal of reaching an agreement without having to go to court.

The estimate includes removing the runway and taxiway, the fuel tanks, T-hangars and the fixed-based operator building and repaying Washington State Department of Transportation grants.

The estimate does not include buying a hangar built by businessman Mike Shannon, Arntzen said.

The closure plan calls for using up the fuel in the fuel tanks and not refilling them. They also plan to close the airport when there is snow or ice to save on plowing costs and to maintain and repair only problems that could risk life, health and safety.

The to-do list also includes creating a conceptual plan that identifies major arterial streets.

The port has the potential to earn $3.7 million after selling the land and paying to close the airport and prepare it for development, including adding roads.

-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; kpihl@tricityherald.com