Most tourists who see the $9 million Boulder City Aerocenter will do so en route from the excitement of Las Vegas to the wonder of some of the world's greatest natural features.
So they might not even notice the natural light, historic aviation touches or even remember much about the gift shop and café.
But the people behind the new 30,000-square-foot terminal at the Boulder City Municipal Airport are already noticing how it's juicing enthusiasm for their product.
The terminal is the project of Southern Nevada's Halvorson family, which owns Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters, Grand Canyon/Scenic Airlines and Canyon Flight Trading Co.
"We are always going to have a presence in Las Vegas. The question is where that presence is going to be," Robert Graff, vice president of marketing for Papillon, said about the company's decision to build despite plans by Clark County to build a heliport near Sloan. "Right now we are definitely focusing on Boulder City."
The terminal has also helped the myriad tour operations consolidate at one location by moving employees and operations from Las Vegas and North Las Vegas to Boulder City, although the company still has helicopter operations from McCarran International Airport.
Graff said about 85 percent of the company's helicopter operations and all of its Nevada airplane operations are now in Boulder City.
The new terminal is a brick-and-steel structure with its own control tower where employees can watch over the company's planes and helicopters.
And the main passenger area has dramatic, 26-foot tall windows facing the ramp, runway and a panoramic view of the desert and mountains beyond. Overhead, a propeller with 24-foot long blades spins quietly.
A large retail store features clothing, accessories and souvenirs, along with a photo processing center and a small café.
On the second floor there are offices and a call center where clerks accept reservations in several languages. Approximately 350 employees work at the center.
Board chairman Elling Halvorson coordinated design and construction, Lon Halvorson arranged financing and Kent Halvorson, through E. Kent Halvorson Inc., was the general contractor. Brenda Halvorson is president and CEO of the companies.
Papillon Airways and Grand Canyon/Scenic Airlines are billed as the largest aircraft sightseeing companies in the world. During busy months they fly more than 3,500 passengers daily, mostly between Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon.
The new terminal comes even as Clark County is considering its own heliport in an effort to divert small aircraft traffic away from McCarran in Las Vegas.
The proposed $114 million heliport is still in the works despite the recession that recently prompted Clark County to trim $360 million from the Aviation Department's $3.7 billion capital improvement plan.
Randall Walker, director of the Clark County Aviation Department, says the heliport in Sloan is still on track to open in 2011. Walker said the heliport will be useful even with the new private terminal in Boulder City.
"If everybody went and built their own in Boulder City, that wouldn't be an issue," Walker said. "But, obviously, that isn't going to happen."
Even as Papillon has relocated, the average number of helicopter flights daily from McCarran has fallen just 6 percent to 99 from a peak of 105 in 2005.
"It is not a significant reduction," he said.
Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3861.