BRANSON — Travelers will be able to fly directly to this Ozark tourist town in a couple of years after backers of a new airport arranged $113 million in revenue bonds to fund the project.
Crews will begin building the Branson Regional Airport after the deal closes on June 28. The project is scheduled to be finished in May 2009, Steve Peet, president of Branson Airport LLC, said Friday in a news release announcing that Citigroup has underwritten the bonds for the airport.
The new airport will provide a more direct route for the 8 million people who visit Branson each year. Currently, commercial air travelers must fly into Springfield-Branson National Airport, which is about 50 miles north of Branson.
Susan Wade, spokeswoman for the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, said it concerns her that some tourists will bypass Springfield when the Branson Regional Airport is operating with commercial flights.
A May 2006 survey at the Springfield-Branson National Airport showed 24 percent of departing passengers who aren’t from southwest Missouri stayed at least one night in the Branson area. That figure was as high as 77 percent in May 2005.
The new airstrip has been in the planning stage for at least five years. The county will own the airport but lease it back to the Branson Regional Airport Transportation Development District. The airport will be privately developed and operated.