All things considered, airports are sold relatively infrequently. When they are listed for sale, the news moves quickly throughout aviation circles.
Those that have had the “For Sale” sign staked into the ground each have their own unique histories. Not to mention they all have the prospect of a new—potentially better—future. Platte Valley Airpark (18V) in Fort Lupton, Colorado, is one of these airports; a nearly six-decade-old aerodrome with a rich history, which is presently for sale.
Just like thinking about the prospects of winning the lottery, seeing an airport listing evokes thoughts of “What if?” and “If only!” But unlike the slim odds of striking riches in a state-sponsored raffle game, being involved in the purchase of an airport could be a reality for a good number of aviators.
After lofty visions of what you would do with your airport purchase have subsided, a subsequent thought may be questions regarding why the property is for sale. That is a natural question to think of whenever an interesting land prospect becomes available—why is the hopeful former owner trying to get rid of it?
Platte Valley Airpark
A statement prepared by LIV Sotheby’s International Realty (the co-listing agency) prefaces the hopeful transition of ownership of Platte Valley Airpark.
“The 13 shareholders are aviators who recognize that change is happening, and the area is growing. What used to be considered far from Denver is now actually part of the growing suburbs. They want to go along with that change and move into retirement, as they consider themselves ‘old timers’ and not developers. While they hope the property stays an airport and is purchased by someone who loves aviation as much as they do, ultimately, they want the property to be a successful venture for the new owners.”
Kevin Kennelly, one of these shareholders, highlighted the airport’s early history and one of the ownership group’s more challenging periods.
“Some of the original partners have passed away, their heirs have received that inheritance and are not interested in the airport. There was a certain amount of effort, assumed by the partners originally, that we would all share in the management and operation of the airport. So, we have a diverse number of shareholders now and the best thing to do is move forward,” he said.
“In the 1960s, this was farmland. The owner was an aviator who built a hangar and a dirt strip to land a small plane. The property was foreclosed on in the late 1970s and purchased by a family who sold it to us, a small group of aviators, in 1992. The original deal was to have a simple little airport that was economical. We kept trying to get away from that and consequently got ourselves into a bad financial situation for a while, but resolved that, fortunately, with oil and gas royalties [from the property].”
Platte Valley Airpark, at an elevation of nearly 5,000 feet msl, sits on 226-plus acres and boasts two runways. The asphalt runway (15/33) is 4,100 feet long by 40 feet wide and the turf/gravel runway (9/27) is 2,500 feet by 90 feet long. The airport is presently home to almost 80 aircraft. Also, the property has a six-unit open T-hangar and a large dedicated FBO building with a three-story observation tower, which is a part of the offering.
The property also included a single-family home, as well as mineral rights. Even with revenue streams from this and hangar leases, operating an airport is a wholly unique kind of investment, according to Kennelly.
“It’s not a classic real estate investment in terms of return on investment or potential growth. Growth is often a disadvantage to an airport because it’s conflicting usage. So, you have to be careful about the growth issue and non-conforming or different types of growth. The aviation market is growing dramatically, so related businesses—flight schools, maintenance [shops], small manufacturing, aerial banner flying, and related or compatible businesses are potential. Maybe some residential opportunities as well. We’ve had a variety of interests [so far].”
The airport has been eyed for several possible uses, Josh Jackson, a real estate associate with LIV Sotheby’s, said.
“We probably have had two dozen real leads, real conversations at this point—at a minimum. It is amazing how diverse the plans and visions are for something of this size with this existing usage and its proximity to a high-growth metro area. I could go on and on. There are a lot of different use cases.”
Jackson hinted that not all of the visions for the property were directly related to aviation, including storage space for 300 automobiles. But the group contends that the airport has nearly limitless potential to keep serving pilots, as the property has the potential to accommodate additional, larger aircraft than it presently does.
“There is some interest in taking this property and turning it into another logistics supply opportunity, to some degree, whether it’s trying to move goods or personnel for oil companies,” he said. “Or have it as another private firefighting [airport]. There are so many different ideas, it’s crazy.”
“There are a lot of folks that, as they are seeking to understand what is at Platte Valley Airpark and what could be, there is a lot of interest in expanding the length of the primary runway. As Kevin has shared with all of these buyers, is doable—because the ground is pretty flat,” Jackson said.