Closing date for Edmonton City Centre Airport picked

The final date to close the sputtering Edmonton City Centre Airport has been set. City Council will vote on the motion next Wednesday.

All operations at Canada's first airfield would cease Nov 30

The final date to close the sputtering Edmonton City Centre Airport has been set.

In a report to be presented to and finalized by City Council next Wednesday, the final day of activity will be Nov. 30.

The closure would mark the end of a decades-long, and often divisive road to close the historic airport, which is widely considered the first licensed airfield in Canada.

At the 1995 municipal election, Edmontonians voted to move scheduled air service to the International Airport. Short-haul flights, charter flights and air ambulance service continued at City Centre.

Tenant exodus from airport in full flight 

Not an exhaustive list

  • Closed or phone disconnected: Air Mikisiw, Harv Air Services, InfinitAir, Kitplane, Millar Western
  • Undecided: Alberta Aero Engine, Centennial Flight Centre, Thomas Aircraft Maintenance
  • Moved or moving to International: Airco, Canadian Helicopters, Can-West Charters, Medevac (AHS), Morningstar Air Express, Northern Air, STARS
  • Moved to Springbank Airport (Calgary): Foster Aircraft

But costs for upkeep escalated, with an estimated $45 million in upgrades needed at City Centre in 2009. So City Council that year voted to close the airport in stages, with an eye to redevelop the land into a new neighbourhood.

A group of business owners called Envision Edmonton argued the airport could still be viable, and just prior to the last municipal election in 2010, presented more than 90,000 signatures on a petition to force a plebiscite on the issue.

The move was unsuccessful, and in October that year, one of two runways was closed. Court battles to keep the airport open by Envision Edmonton and one of the airport's tenants, Airco Aircraft Charters, were also rejected.

Fight against closure virtually grounded

In June 2012, the last scheduled flight left the airport, leaving only charters. STARS Air Ambulance moved to the Edmonton International Airport that October.

Earlier this year, a process to expropriate airport land that was still occupied began, while in March, Alberta Health Services moved inter-hospital flights, known as Medevac, to the Edmonton International Airport.

Since 2012, support among existing tenants to keep the airport has drifted away. A survey this week by CBC News found that of roughly 40 tenants that were at the airport in 2012:

  • At least five had moved or intended to move to the International Airport;
  • two had moved or intended to move to Springbank Airport, just outside Calgary;
  • the telephone numbers for four were disconnected; 
  • the remainder were not available for comment or had not decided what to do.

The city report calls on administration to continue working with tenants at City Centre to "mitigate impacts and ease transitions, if possible."

Last October, the city picked Blatchford as the name for the new neighbourhood to replace the airport, a nod to former mayor Kenneth Blatchford, who helped establish the airport in 1926.

Groundbreaking for Blatchford is scheduled for early 2014, with the first residents moving in two years later. Once the development is complete, it will be home to 30,000 people.