This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: 70K, 47K and 27K are for square-feet and square-yards, not dollar amounts.      

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – As work continues to build a new four-level parking ramp, city officials heard an update on future plans at the Sioux Falls Regional Airport Tuesday afternoon. 

Dan Letellier, the airport’s executive director, presented an airport master plan update to city council members. The Sioux Falls Regional Airport started its master plan update in August 2021 and wants to finalize the plan by the end of 2023. 

Currently, the airport has seven gates and direct flights to 17 locations. The 2023 master plan update would look to gain seven more gates in a phased expansion project that would cost more than $130 million. 

Rendering from Sioux Falls Regional Airport.

The first expansion would add a net gain of five gates, while an expansion of the apron is also needed. The apron at the airport is where vehicles and airplanes share the same space. 

A final phase of expansion of the terminal would gain two more gates.

The $130 million to expand the airport terminal would require funding through partnerships with federal, state and city governments. The airport is footing the entire bill for the parking ramp expansion which cost $63 million and aims to be finished by October 2024. 

Letellier said the terminal expansion could provide space needed to attract international flights, but highlighted there’s a lot of work ahead to figure out a finance plan that could work. 

“It’ll take a hefty effort to finance this project,” Letellier said.

Council member Pat Starr said he believes the airport is reacting to growth instead of looking for growth. He said the city government should be a better partner with the airport as more planning occurs. 

“We’ve tried to accommodate the growth as best we can. We’ve been very conservative as an organization,” Letellier said. 

Starr said the airport deserves credit for encouraging more people to use the Sioux Falls airport instead of driving to Omaha or Minneapolis.

Letellier said the entire community benefits from the airport and the airport has never asked for the state’s help or the city’s help for funding. 

“We’re going to have to go well beyond what we’ve asked for support,” Letellier said.

Letellier said the project would need to be completed in multiple phases as funding became available. He said a working group has started with the South Dakota Department of Transportation to look at funding needs at airports across the state.

Letellier said the Rapid City airport had been working with Gov. Kristi Noem’s office about funding options for expansion and support. He said Rapid City was confident Noem’s budget would include some money for airports.

“That didn’t happen,” Letellier said. “So at the last minute, we proposed some legislation. We didn’t have time to explain to a lot of the representatives why this is important. That is something the state has never participated in.”

Parking is the main revenue source for the airport’s authority board. Parking rates at the airport are $11 per day for the long term lot and $9 a day for the economy lot. 

In 2022, the airport saw more than 1.2 million passengers, an increase of 21% compared to 2021. The top airlines were Allegiant (165,611), United (153,838), Delta (150,912), American (109,467) and Frontier (30,190). There were 1,915 chartered flights in 2022. 

Letellier told state lawmakers this legislative session the airport has more than a $400 million annual impact on the South Dakota economy. 

Along with terminal expansion, the airport wants to maintain existing runways and taxiways as a main focus. There’s development challenges regarding design standards, existing infrastructure and access challenges regarding the runways. 

Patrick Dame, director of the Rapid City Regional Airport, told state lawmakers costs of a runaway approved by Federal Aviation Administration standards cost about $20 million in 2003, but that has increased to $60 million in 2023.

The Federal Aviation Association is looking to study sites for the air traffic control tower and the airport facilities terminal integration laboratory.  Sioux Falls is classified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as a Class D airspace. Letellier said the current air traffic control tower is 55 years old.

A Class D airspace has a radius of 4.4 nautical miles or about five miles by road. In comparison, Class C airspace is five nautical mile radius with an outer radius of 10 nautical miles.

Along with an air traffic control tower, the airport is looking at scenarios to add additional air cargo operations to the airport. 

The airport is projecting air cargo to double in the next 20 years.