Wednesday, May 3, 2017
Possible sale of Ontario Airport land needs full vetting
By The Riverside (CA) Press-Enterprise Editorial Board
A lone traveler heads towards Ontario International Airport as the sun goes down Sunday, Oct. 26, 2003, in Ontario, Calif.
There’s a lot going on at Ontario International Airport, and just about all the developments are positive.
Air traffic is picking up, there will be a desperately needed makeover of the airport’s food and drink offerings, and Volaris is adding flights and a new destination in Mexico.
Meanwhile, the authority that runs ONT faces a decision that it must weigh carefully: whether to sell a 147-acre parcel of land it owns east of the airport.
Certainly it’s tempting to sell the land, because signs are it would allow Ontario International Airport Authority to pay off its $70 million debt to Los Angeles World Airports years early, saving millions of dollars in interest. That would allow the airport to charge carriers lower passenger fees, which would produce much-needed fare reductions that would boost passenger traffic.
But authority CEO Kelly Fredericks’ recommendation last week to sell the land at auction didn’t please Commissioner Lucy Dunn, who said the direction to him had been to develop a process to evaluate what to do with the land — not to make a recommendation so soon.
Commissioners agreed to slow down the process for further consideration.
Sam Crowe, the former Ontario city attorney (and councilman) who was involved in the sale of the airport to Los Angeles decades ago, has sent a letter urging the authority to lease the land rather than sell it, because it could be needed for airport expansion years from now — for a U.S. Customs facility or some other use.
Maybe he’s right, maybe not. But certainly the long-term future and potential needs of the airport must be considered thoroughly before disposing of any of its assets.
As to the present and immediate future of ONT, Fredericks reported at Thursday’s meeting of the authority that for both the month of March and the first quarter of this year, ONT’s passenger and cargo traffic grew faster than LAX’s — for the first time in nearly a decade.
And it’s great news for travelers that the pathetic food-and-drink scene at ONT will get a major upgrade. Delaware North, the concessionaire, has agreed to invest $6 million in a revamp that will bring in some well-known and well-regarded food vendors.