The Yakima airport is about to look a lot different

The Yakima airport is about to look a lot different »Play Video
YAKIMA, Wash. -- It's potentially a high-risk, high-reward move for the city of Yakima: taking over the airport for the first time in decades.

City Manager Tony O'Rourke said the airport can be an economic engine. He wants to increase flights, customers and ultimately profit.

"If we want that airport to be a major portal and economic stimulus to the area, we'll have to make some investments,” O’Rourke said. “Just like any other business, you can't expect it to be successful if you're starving it of investments."

You might be asking yourself: "Haven't we tried this before?"

Many airlines have come and gone in Yakima. Most recently, Seaport Airlines, which pulled out of Yakima in less than one year.

Both city and airport officials say the newest plan is to capture all of the 270,000 people who live in the surrounding market.

O'Rourke says currently only about 25 percent use the Yakima Airport. Many aren't even aware it's here.

Airport officials admit Yakima won't be the destination. But, they say a new advertising campaign will let them know about flights going in and out.

The city manager says new airlines have already expressed interest in Yakima. However, the city would have to financially back them if they didn't reach their passenger loads.

Given the airport is already losing money, some council members aren't sold on the idea.

"The city of Yakima is not in a position where we can infuse the airport with funds,” said council member Kathy Coffey.

The city's master plan also includes building hangar space, where people will pay to house and fuel their private planes.

Lynn Buchanan lives in Yakima, but houses his plane in Ellensburg. KIMA asked him if he thinks there’s any plan that can bring more flights to Yakima.

“No, not until they start bringing more passengers out of Yakima,” Lynn said.

Bringing those passengers out of Yakima is just what the city hopes will happen. Yakima's city manager says the biggest goal is to no longer lose customers to airports like Pasco and Walla Walla.

He says he'd like to see flights to places like L.A, Boise and San Francisco.