Dane County Regional Airport Opens New Biz Aviation Terminal

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Gone is the cramped and crumbling Wisconsin Aviation terminal, built in the 1930s, which greeted visitors -- often business people, celebrities, politicians and athletes -- who fly into the Dane County Regional Airport (KMSN) on private planes. On Dec. 1, Wisconsin Aviation Inc. opened its sleek, $2.5 million, 15,000-square-foot terminal, which will host a new O'Malley's Jet Room restaurant, an aviation gift shop, pilots' lounge and a waiting area with a fireplace. The terminal -- which is almost double the old size -- is open to the public and is on the east side of the Dane County Regional Airport property in Madison, Wis.

Joyce Hagen, customer relations for Wisconsin Aviation Inc., said the old deteriorating terminal was an embarrassment, especially when "anybody who is anybody" saw it, including actor-director Robert Redford, who visited in October 1998 to stump for U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis, and had to change clothes in a manager's office.

The terminal is a plus for Madison-area businesses that often charter planes and will sometimes conduct business meetings at the new terminal's conference room, said Deb Archer, president of the Greater Madison Convention and Visitor's Bureau. The old terminal was demolished in March. The two-story brick building served as the commercial airline passenger terminal for the Madison Municipal Airport from 1938 to 1966, when the current terminal was built across the field. In 1974, Dane County took over the regional airport. Over the years, the old terminal went through several additions, including creation of a lobby and restaurant. It changed hands a few times until Wisconsin Aviation bought the terminal and assets of Madison's Four Lakes Aviation in 1994.

Private flights make up the majority of air traffic at the Dane County Regional Airport. In 2001, Wisconsin Aviation provided 81,958 flights -- compared to 40,086 commercial flights and 6,511 military flights.