Jerry Hunter, chief executive of US Fleet Tracking, says he's almost embarrassed to show visitors inside Sundance Airport, his latest business venture.
With its pink bathrooms, gaudy '80s decor and overgrown brush surrounding the runway, it's clear Sundance could use a face-lift. But the before, he says, is essential to appreciating the after.
Hunter purchased the airport at NW 122 and Sara Road on Dec. 31 and is planning to invest $1 million to remodel the terminal building, adding an aviation-themed restaurant and other first-class amenities, as well as 80 new aircraft hangars at a cost of an additional $2.4 million.
The airport will remain open during the renovation, which begins in a couple of weeks.
“Four months from now, you won't recognize it,” Hunter said.
He plans to replicate many elements used in the $2.3 million Oklahoma City corporate headquarters for US Fleet Tracking, which he and his wife, Cindy, started in 2005. The company provides GPS-based tracking devices and services to companies and for special events, such as the Super Bowl.
The transition at Sundance already has begun. Hunter kept just one staff member as he took over; he changed the name from Sundance Airpark to Sundance Airport and created a Facebook page and new website. He's also hired a new general manager.
Hunter was looking for hangar space for his personal plane when he discovered Sundance was for sale. The facility had the least expensive rates of any he called, but like Guthrie-Edmond Regional Airport and Wiley Post Airport, the hangars were full. Hunter asked Sundance's owner Gary Varnell why he didn't raise the rent and build more hangars. That's when Varnell disclosed the airport was for sale, Hunter said.
Jet capable private airport
Like most small airports in Oklahoma, Sundance doesn't have an air traffic control tower. But it does have a 5,000-foot jet-capable runway, an asset that makes it unique for a small, private airport, said Grayson Ardies, aviation programs manager for the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission.
City officials in 1984 celebrated the opening of the airport, which cost $12.5 million to build, according to The Oklahoman archives.
For at least 20 years before, the site consisted of a sod landing strip with a small hangar that was periodically rented by a hobbyist to rebuild an old plane.
Now, about 150 aircraft are based at Sundance, and it handles about 3,000 total landings and take offs each year, according to data provided by the airport to Aeronautics Commission. In comparison, Wiley Post Airport, a public Oklahoma City airport, has more than 330 based aircraft and handles an average of 70,000 aircraft operations a year.
Hunter plans to set up a Young Eagles program at Sundance as well as a flight school. He believes the new restaurant and competitively-priced aircraft fuel sold on site will attract more pilots.
“There is a thriving aviation community out here,” Hunter said.