Cody airport plans $1.4 million upgrade to car rental facilities

YRA aims to consolidate airport’s car rental operations near the main terminal

Posted 12/12/19

Yellowstone Regional Airport leaders are planning a $1.4 million upgrade to their rental car facilities — and they’re hoping the state government will cover half the cost.

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Cody airport plans $1.4 million upgrade to car rental facilities

YRA aims to consolidate airport’s car rental operations near the main terminal

Posted

Yellowstone Regional Airport leaders are planning a $1.4 million upgrade to their rental car facilities — and they’re hoping the state government will cover half the cost.

The primary aim of the “Car Rental Quick Turn Facility” is to consolidate the Cody airport’s car rental operations near the main terminal. YRA officials say that will create faster service for customers, more convenience for the private rental companies and more revenue for the public airport.

“It’s a win-win for everybody,” Airport Director Bob Hooper told Park County commissioners at their meeting last week. “It’s a win-win for the airport, our car rental tenants and our customers, because they would enjoy a better car rental experience at the airport.”

Included in the plans are a new, paved overflow parking area, an automated car wash, prep bays and gas pumps — all dedicated to the rental car operations.

“It’s a big project,” Hooper said.

“It’s a hell of a car wash,” deadpanned Commissioner Joe Tilden.

Commissioners voted unanimously to sign a letter of support for the project, as Yellowstone Regional Airport leaders prepare to seek a $700,000 grant from the State Loan and Investment Board. The other half of the facility would be paid for with fees that are tacked on to each vehicle rental at the airport. A relatively new “customer facility charge” of $2.50 per car per day has amassed about $238,000 over the past two and a half years, Hooper said. However, “the collections weren’t coming in quite as rapidly as we had hoped,” he said, so airport leaders hiked the rate to $4.50 this month.

“The bottom line is we as an airport don’t really pay for this [quick turn facility]. It’s paid for by the customers that are renting the cars by the daily fee,” Hooper said. Airport officials are seeking state help “because we’d like to get this thing on the fast track [and] get it off the slow track that we’re on right now,” Hooper said. “Because the car rental companies really need this facility really bad.”

The airport has two current tenants at the terminal: Overland West, which offers Hertz, Dollar and Thrifty car rentals, and ROVAR LLC, which offers Avis and Budget brands. YRA already offers the companies smaller car washes, but they’re located in a different spot — and getting fuel also means driving to gas stations off-site.

As a result, Overland West and ROVAR employees must drive out on the Greybull Highway (U.S. 14/16/20) more than 15,000 times a year, YRA officials say.

Many employees are young drivers and “several of them in the last couple years were involved in accidents out there,” Hooper said. “So we’re trying to get everything in a more centralized location.”

Airports in Billings, Bozeman, Missoula and Gillette all have similar quick turn facilities, Hooper said. “This concept, it’s becoming very normal in our industry.”

The airport will own all of the new facilities, then rent them to the companies and collect a maintenance fee.

The county’s letter of support, put together by airport staff and approved by the commissioners, says the project is “essential” to not only Park County, but the entire Big Horn Basin. Commissioners wrote that the facility “will be an effective tool” for boosting the number of people who choose to use the Cody airport instead of going out-of-state.

“... It not only is a benefit to the car rental companies, and Park County, along with the surrounding counties, but also to the State of Wyoming,” the commission’s letter says. “We feel this is a worthwhile project for the State Land [sic] and Investment Board to fund.”

Airport board minutes indicate that the State Loan and Investment Board will likely consider YRA officials’ request at its June meeting.

If the state board — made up of Wyoming’s five statewide elected officials — agrees to cover half the cost, YRA leaders would still need to borrow several hundred thousand dollars to cover their share while waiting for more rental fees to trickle in.

Yellowstone Regional Airport Joint Powers Board Chairman Bucky Hall, a former commissioner, suggested the county could perhaps lend the money to the airport.

“We can probably pay the county a lot more in interest than you’re getting now” on the money in the county’s reserves, Hall said, to laughter from the commissioners.

“If you come up with an ironclad proposal, come back and let us know,” Tilden said.

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