Business jumping at Middletown airport

Skydiving team to base operations at Hook Field

MIDDLETOWN — The Middletown Municipal Airport has finally received “the shot in the arm it has been looking for,” said manager Rich Bevis.

City Council approved a lease with Start Skydiving on Dec. 1, agreeing to construct a $350,000 hangar expansion to lure the company’s premier skydiving team from the Warren County Airport to Middletown. Team Fast Trax — encompassing nearly 70 employees — have packed their bags and will soon make Middletown their home.

Founder and team member John Hart said his team is hoping to create a world-class skydiving center in Middletown.

“Cincinnati has the Bengals, now Middletown has Fast Trax,” he said. “We’re excited to get in here and start jumping.”

Bevis called the deal a “coup for Middletown,” noting the business had an estimated $13 million economic impact in Warren County last year.

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“People are going to come from as far away as Japan, China and Russia just to learn skydiving from these guys,” Bevis said. “Restaurants, hotels, bars, you name it and it will probably benefit from the team coming to Middletown.”

The lease is currently being finalized by the city, Bevis said, with construction on the new hangar expected to begin in early 2010.

“In a time where things are going down for most businesses, we’re actually going up,” Bevis said.

In addition to paying rent on the new facility, Bevis said the team also will burn through approximately 60,000 gallons of jet fuel every year. The going rate for a gallon of jet fuel is approximately $3.50, he said.

Hart said he has been looking to relocate to Middletown for several years now, as the operation has outgrown its current facilities. Hart said the group did more than 30,000 separate dives last year alone, training an estimated 1,400 new students in the process.

“Our goal is to be here indefinitely,” Hart said. “We know we’ll be good for Middletown. This community has really embraced us in the past and we just flat-out want to be here.”

David Duritsch, Middletown’s public works and utilities director, said Fast Trax coming to town is an “important first step in turning the corner” for the airport. Four years after pouring $1.5 million into the facility to purchase the airport’s hangars, he said the city is still paying off that debt.

Duritsch estimates the up to $350,000 investment will be paid off within the first five years of Fast Trax’s 20-year lease. The team also is investing as much as $225,000 of its own to cover the

interior of the expansion, Duritsch said.

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