In the past year officials at Long Island MacArthur Airport have brought in a radio station, a bar and grill, retail stores, and turned the main concourse into an events space complete with a towering Christmas tree for this season's holiday concerts.
At a news conference Thursday, town Supervisor Tom Croci said his administration is trying to turn around the struggling airport -- which lost nearly $4.2 million from 2010 to 2012, and is expected to bring in about $1.5 million less than the town had hoped for this year -- with a raft of new features.
Croci hailed the town-owned airport's new restaurant, Lighthouse on the Runway Bar & Grill, and retail shops East End Getaway and Long Island Wines that focus on local wines and souvenirs. He said the airport has joined the effort to brand Long Island as a vacation destination.
Airport officials have also reconfigured the facility into a community space. It's now home to Long Island News Radio, which occupies a glass studio next to baggage claim. The airport hosts concerts and the second floor has a gallery curated by the Islip Arts Council.
The airport is now home to a vehicle transport company, Autoplane, which has a weekly Long Island to Florida route to serve snowbirds who want their cars at their winter homes.
Islip Councilman John Cochrane Jr. said the town will start marketing the region's golf courses to compete with vacation places such as Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
"People will come in here to play golf in the morning," he said, and perhaps end their day fishing at Captree Island and dining at local restaurants.
The airport still lacks replacements for PenAir and Allegiant Air, the airlines that departed the Ronkonkoma facility earlier this year, and has faced a decline in revenue and flights over the past four years.
The airport had 8,303 departing flights this year through October -- on par with last year's figures, airport Commissioner Robert Schaefer said. The town board agreed Tuesday to spend up to $120,000 on two consulting firms to help the airport's future.
"It's been a long three years working to make sure that this airport remains vibrant," Croci said.
Despite the loss of the two carriers, Croci said the airport still brings in a half-billion dollars in "economic development" that ripples out to many local businesses in Suffolk County.
"You can rest assured the market is here," he said.
Next year the airport will pursue bonding for a $1.5 million federal inspection facility to handle customs and passport processing for international flights, Schaefer said.