Eddie Rickenbacker was born in Columbus. The airport was formerly known as Lockbourne Air Force Base (hence the code LCK), and the name was changed to the current Rickenbacker International Airport.
Okay, there is a lot behind this new terminal at Rickenbacker, I'll try and put it in a nutshell...
Currently, Rickenbacker serves as an inland port, handling dozens of international cargo flights every week, and has a large sorting facility for FedEx, which acquired the LCK facilities when they bought Flying Tiger. The area is also designated as a foreign trade zone. In addition, the airport is the home base of the Air Force's 121st Air Refueling Wing.
Though the airport is known as one of the most successful sites to have transitioned from being a military base to a commercial center, it still has funding shortfalls. The airport receives a grant from the federal government as aid in transitioning to a cargo hub, as well as subsidies from Franklin County. Since the airport has completed the transition, the government funding will soon end. Franklin County commissioners also want the airport to become self-sufficient, as they have granted over $8 million to the Rickenbacker Airport Authority already.
So the Rickenbacker Airport Authority started to look for a new source of funding, hence the idea to break into the air charter business. The reason the airport is aiming at handling at least 10,000 passengers a year is becuase it would qualify the airport for government funding as a major airport. In addition, the airport would gain revenue from a planned hotel and restaurants that want to build on airport land.
The board of the Rickenbacker Airport Authority worked very quickly to get plans for a new terminal finalized. However, much of this work was done behind the backs of the Franklin County Board of Commissioners. When the terminal plans were announced, the board was not very happy, since they would be footing most of the bill for a project that isn't even guaranteed of succeeding. Arguments went back and forth between the airport authority members and the Board of Commissioners. The original $12 million, 4-gate facility was scaled back to a 2-gate facility, and the Board hired an independant group to study a possible merger of Rickenbacker International Airport with Port Columbus International Airport. The Board of Commissioners strongly urged the Rickenbacker Authority to hold construction on the terminal until the study was complete. The Authority waited at first and then went against the board's decision and announced that the new terminal would be built.
So now this is what we have: the new terminal has started construction and should be complete be December of this year. The Franklin Country Board of Commissioners for the most part is supporting the new terminal at Rickenbacker. One member remains strongly opposed to it. The study to merge the CMH and LCK operations is still going on, and the study so far has said that Franklin County could save about $1.4 million combining the two authorities, but would still have to provide subsidies for at least 4 or 5 more years.
Thomacf: Actually, Port Columbus is not stagnant at the moment. The airport is completing work on a 5-gate expansion of Concourse C, and is currently constructing a new 224 ft. control tower and ATC facility. Once the expansion is complete, the airport will still be short on gates, as Delta has already committed to leasing 4 of the 5 new gates. While Executive Jet does account for a sizeable amount of the airport's operations, so does AirNet, which is also based in Columbus. Also, America West did have plans to greatly expand the Port Columbus hub prior to Sept. 11.
You are correct though, much of Columbus' population growth is happening in the Northern metro area around the Franklin/Delaware County line. Rickenbacker is located in the southern part of Franklin County.
You are also correct that Port Columbus could definitely handle an increase in charter traffic. However, Elaine Roberts, the Executive Director of the Columbus Airport Authority, has stated that increasing charter traffic is not a major goal for the airport. Currently, charter service is extremely limited, with only one charter flight every Sunday to Cancun operated by Apple Vacations.
I also agree that more could be done to increase cargo traffic at LCK. I do believe that the airport should have continued to improve and expand through cargo traffic. However, the proposal of the new terminal brought something to the attention of Columbus civic leaders that should have been realized years ago: mergering the operations of Rickenbacker and Port Columbus. This way, both airport would not compete with each other, and both airport would be able to succeed together.