By Wayne Schutsky
Scottsdale recently unveiled its new Aviation Business Center to the public at a grand opening celebration on November 3, showing off the final piece of the city’s $27-million terminal redevelopment project at Scottsdale Airport.
The three-hour event was full of family-friendly activities such as a novelty-passport-directed tour of the new center and a paper airplane competition.
When approaching the new building, the first thing most visitors noticed was a large yellow Boeing-Stearman PT-17 Kaydet hanging on display in an outdoor plaza just south of the entrance to the business center. The pre-World War II military training aircraft is part of the Thunderbird Field II Veterans’ Memorial.
The memorial includes plaques and interactive digital displays with information about World War II and Scottsdale Airport’s wartime origins. The airport grounds opened in 1942 as Thunderbird Field II, a basic training facility for Army Air Corps pilots.
After visiting the memorial, visitors were directed by the passport to different spots throughout the building, including a U.S. Customs and Border Protection display showing items that cannot be brought into the country.
Items on display included animal products like antlers, agriculture seeds and a collection of insects found on contaminated fruit confiscated by officers.
Attendees also had the chance to walk on the tarmac and see first-responder vehicles and aircraft up close, including a jet from Wings of Humanity, one of the building’s tenants.
Wings of Humanity is an Arizona nonprofit created to operate converted private business jets that will provide on-demand ambulatory services to children. The organization’s fleet will be operated by Air 7, a private charter flight company. Wings of Humanity and Air 7 will occupy office space on the building’s first floor.
In addition to those occupants, the city’s aviation department and U.S. Customs officers will have offices in the building.
The city also reserved a small office space for the Civil Air Patrol squadrons, the U.S. Air Force auxiliary force that conducts non-combat missions like search and rescue, disaster response and other emergency services.
The Civil Air Patrol will have space at the new business center for two local squadrons, including the 301-cadet unit. Civil Air Patrol is open to cadets between the ages of 12 and 18 who want to fly and gain experience in preparation for a career in the Air Force or other aeronautical industries.
A steady flow of families streamed into the three-hour event to check out the new facilities, take part in activities and bask in the excellent evening views of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve from the building’s second floor.
DWL Architects designed the business center with those views in mind, says Michael Hauer, who worked on the project for over two years from design through construction.
“We designed the whole thing to take advantage of those views,” says Hauer, referencing meeting and event space and a large open patio on the second floor of the building that overlooks the airport and has wide panoramic views of the mountain range. A second-story restaurant called Volanti will also feature outdoor seating with mountain views.
The completion of the new Aviation Business Center culminates the second phase of the city’s terminal redevelopment project. The first phase, which included two executive hangars that cover over 60,000 square feet, opened earlier this year.
DWL Architects and contractor JE Dunn Construction completed the project without disrupting operations at Scottsdale Airport.
Building alongside an active airport has its unique challenges, including maintaining adequate space for planes and keeping drainage water and debris off the runway. “There are definitely challenges but nothing insurmountable,” Hauer says.
According to city documents, the projects replaced an aging terminal and business center that were constructed in the 1960s and 1970s and were no longer viable.
The terminal was set up to support “commercial airline service with a large boarding area which will never be used for this purpose,” according to a City Council memo. The old business center, built in the 1970s, featured many small office spaces that were difficult to lease.
The City Council approved over $22.5 million in funding to construct the facilities, parking lots and associated utilities. The money came from over $25 million in the capital improvement projects budget at the time that was funded by a municipal bond and set aside for terminal redevelopment.
The city anticipated that a combination of aviation rates and fees and leases and rental agreements associated with the hangars, restaurants and office space will provide the funds necessary to cover service on the bond debt.
A pre-World War II Boeing-Stearman PT-17 Kaydet plane hangs above the Thunderbird Field II Veterans’ Memorial at Scottsdale’s Aviation Business Center. The memorial commemorates the airport’s history as a training field for pilots during World War II.