OWLS HEAD, Maine — This could be considered a Cinderella story, but it’s about an airport.
One year ago, wintry wind whipped through chinks in the thin walls of the Knox County Regional Airport terminal. People rushing to their planes early in the morning or late at night typically did so in the dark, because the outside light often failed at its only job. The terminal couldn’t hold new security equipment because the floors would give out — not to mention there wasn’t space for it. The terminal at that time actually consisted of two double-wide mobile homes and a trailer.
After securing more than $3 million in federal grant money, however, the Knox County airport got a huge makeover. Construction workers moved in and erected a brand-new terminal — this one about 10,000 square feet, up from the approximately 2,500 square feet of the trailers.
To celebrate the completion of the terminal, the airport will hold an open house at 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 17, during which community members can tour the new digs while munching on snacks.
People flying out of the airport last year had to wait in line to go into a 6-foot-by-5-foot room with three security officers. They got scanned and waited in a trailer. If fliers forgot to use the restroom before arriving and being cleared, they had to wait until landing in Boston for relief, because there was no facility in the waiting area.
But when flights started leaving from the new two-story building with a rusty-red roof, customers could check in at the granite counter before walking along carpeted floors to a white-walled hallway to be screened for security. Passengers now wait in a large, open room with views of the forest and the planes. Customers have wireless Internet access and can watch big-screen TVs in the new facility. They can even use restrooms in the waiting area.
Airport manager Jeffrey Northgraves said the new building was designed to feel like Maine.
“It’s all reminiscent of a pier or the breakwater. It screams at you that you’re in Maine,” he said as he pointed to brown-tiled murals, blocky brown and black floors, and wood details against white and blue walls.
Northgraves hopes residents will stop in and have tea at a table in the cafe area while they use the wireless Internet access and watch planes fly in and out.
According to Northgraves, the project cost Knox County about $600,000. All of that was taken from surplus. The rest of the $4 million came from a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration. The grant uses only aviation-generated taxes, not income-based taxes, Northgraves said.
The open house will include a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Representatives of the airport’s airline carrier, Cape Air, will be at the event.