Television commercials aren’t the only thing that cost more during the Super Bowl.
Pilots based at Glendale Municipal Airport (GEU) in Arizona say the cost of hangar space has jumped dramatically in response to the news that the community is hosting the 2008 Super Bowl. In addition, tenants are being told that they may not have access to their airplanes for several days because of the game, which is scheduled for Feb. 3, 2008, at the University of Phoenix Stadium.
The stadium is just 1.5 miles from the airport.
According to Jennifer Stein, a spokeswoman for the city of Glendale, which owns the airport, the city is putting in a lot of work to prepare for the big day.
“Right now we are moving light poles to make room for the visiting aircraft,” she said. “We are taking reservations for them. We anticipate that we will have anywhere from 100 to 150 aircraft on game day. When we hosted the National Championship game last year we had between 80 and 100 aircraft.”
The FBO, which was bought by a private company last year, also is undergoing a transformation, she said.
“It is being refurbished to make it more accommodating for pilots,” she said. “The whole place has been gutted and is in the process of being remodeled. They are turning it into a corporate jet center. It should be ready by the Fiesta Bowl, which we host on Jan. 2, and will definitely be ready by the Super Bowl in February.”
The new owners, who have invested about $6 million in the FBO, also have bought two aircraft tugs in preparation for the big events, she added.
But what has got local pilots riled is a recent renovation of the airport’s hangars.
This spring, the private company that owns the hangars, Glendale Airport Hangars, told tenants that all hangars must be evacuated for renovation, according to Ross Wood, an airport tenant since 2001. There are about 100 enclosed hangars and 200 shade hangars.
“When I arrived at the airport, enclosed hangars were $290 a month and shade hangars were $90 a month,” Wood said. “The enclosed hangars were full and the shade hangars about two-thirds full.”
After the hangar renovation, which pilots say involved only superficial painting and a coat of asphalt near the shade hangars, pilots expected to see rents increase, but were stunned at how much they increased, according to Wood.
“It came as a great shock to find that enclosed hangars were now $600 a month and the shade hangars had more than tripled, to $290 a month,” he said.
Pilots complained to city officials who told them that, since the hangars are owned by a private company, the city can’t do anything about the rent increases.
“So we have many aircraft parked in the sun on the ramp and the 200 shade hangars sit, empty,” Wood said.
General Aviation News placed several calls to Glendale Airport Hangars, which were not answered. According to Cathy Gorham, director of City Manager relations for the city of Glendale, the company is owned by Valley Aviation Services, which is owned by George Van Houten, who is headquartered in Washington State. Attempts to reach Van Houten also were unsuccessful.
According to Gorham, Van Houten has held a lease with the city since 1986.
“Since he owns the hangars, he can do whatever he wants,” she said, acknowledging that some business decisions may not be very popular. “I have been in this position for approximately four weeks and in that time I have heard from many pilots who have concerns. I am in the process of scheduling meetings with the airport tenants to learn more about their concerns.”
In the meantime, the ramp remains crowded, which will make things even more challenging during the Super Bowl, said AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Roger Whittier, who said the city wants the smaller airplanes to move to make room for the big jets expected for game day.
“In the original proposal they wanted to move all the airplanes off the ramp to make room for the jets,” he said. “Most of the airplanes that are on the ramp are the airplanes that used to be in the hangars, but aren’t in them anymore because no one can afford them at those prices. The city told us that we would not have access to our airplanes for nine days during the Super Bowl.”
The tenants reacted to this edict by forming the Glendale Pilots Association.
“There is strength in numbers and you need to speak with a unified voice,” said Whittier.
Officials from the pilots association met with the city council member who represents the airport’s district to express their displeasure over the plans. They also notified AOPA and the FAA about the situation. Both responded with letters to city officials, with the FAA warning that closing the airport to piston aircraft would place it in violation of certain grant assurances, which could jeopardize the airport’s ability to get funding in the future.
Apparently the pilots’ lobbying efforts worked, because the city came back with a new plan to close the airport at 5 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 1, Whittier said.
“They are asking people to move off the ramp — go to another airport or let them move your airplane into a secured area,” he said. “They will cover the cost of your fuel or give you one month’s free rent if they move it. A lot of pilots are taking advantage of the fuel because they don’t want their airplanes on the ramp with all the jets.”
Plans are ongoing as the big day approaches, so the association created a website, Brickner.com/kgeu_pilots/index.html, to keep pilots up to speed on developments. One of the first things to be published on the site was the FAA’s NOTAM for the No Fly Zone on game day.
The airport will be closed during the game because it is so close to the stadium, Stein said.
Before and after the game, however, “we anticipate we will have aircraft taking off and landing every few minutes,” she said.
Pilots going to the game who can’t get a reservation at Glendale can use nearby airports, such as Chandler and Deer Valley, she noted, “or may simply drop their passengers off, then head to another airport until the end of the game.”
For more information: GlendaleAz.com