The magic date was 2-22-22, that's February 22, 2022, when Missoula County International Airport Director Brian Ellestad hosted a group of dignitaries including Senator Jon Tester to tour the nearly complete new terminal.

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First to speak was Adriane Beck, not only Director of the Missoula County Office of Disaster and Emergency Services, but also chair of the Missoula Airport Board. Beck laid the foundation for today’s event inside the new terminal.

“Enplanements in 1999 were 222,425 and by 2019, they had reached 452,934,” began Beck. “These numbers will only continue to grow as Montana has been discovered. Our goals for this project were to create a modern, expandable facility to meet current demand and prepare MSO for future growth. We made a commitment to our tenants in the community to build a world class facility without increasing taxes or increasing tenants rent to pay for it.”

Senator Tester stood at the podium and built on Beck’s opening comments.

“I will also point out what's already been pointed out, and that is that Montana has been discovered, and Western Montana has been discovered,” said Senator Tester. “That makes this airport and the expansion of this airport all the more important because this is a gateway to quality of life for the people who live here; for the businesses who operate here in western Montana and for the tourists who come here and support a $7.1 billion tourism economy in our state. This airport will create opportunity and jobs for as long as all of us are probably going to be around.”

Tester referenced the millions of ARPA fund dollars and other federal investments in bringing the new terminal to near completion.

“The bottom line is that when all things are said and done, it's up to the local communities to really utilize these dollars in a way that makes sense for those communities,” he said. “That's what's happened here. We've seen smart investments in infrastructure that are going to stand the test of time, and it's not done yet. There's more work to be done here. I believe this is Phase one of three phases, correct? That is going to be pretty cool.”

Director Ellestad detailed the budget for all three phases of the airport expansion project.

“This phase is $67 million and we will be under budget or at budget when it's all said and done,” said Ellestad. “We probably have about $10 million worth of bills left to pay. “Then Phase Two is going to be in that $40 to $45 million phase for which we are still vetting the bids. Then we actually got proactive and did a Phase Three. We're hoping to add another jet bridge and another ground board gate that would be after that, and that's probably in that $5 to $8 million range. So the bids are going up right now.”

Various executives and dignitaries were taken on a tour of the new terminal, accompanied by Senator Tester and Airport Director Ellestad, who said the probable opening date for the new terminal will be sometime in May.

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