The City of Boulder is at the crossroads of determining the future of the airport site and how it can best serve the community.

No decision has been reached yet regarding the future of the airport site. As we work through this process, we have heard different stories and questions from community members.

Here are answers to the top five questions we have heard.

Aerial view of Boulder Municipal Airport, May 2006
Courtesy of Rubino Surveying, Boulder, Colorado

Aerial view of Boulder Municipal Airport, May 2006

1. How will you decide on the future of the airport site?

The Airport Community Conversation project helped us develop a deeper understanding of the community’s desired future for the airport site.

There were four possible future scenarios developed during this community engagement process. Among these, we heard a desire from the community to explore changing how we use the land from an airport to housing.

This land use change would require closing the airport. Currently, we are completing a financial and legal analysis to understand if this is feasible, before City Council makes a decision.

The final decision will depend on many factors, including city, state, and federal considerations, and alignment with community goals, including those defined and collected over the years in the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan and the Sustainability, Equity & Resilience Framework.

City Council will review this information and decide on next steps later in 2024.

2. Is it even possible to close the airport? How much would it cost?

The answer to this question is in progress.

Although airport closure isn’t certain, as City Council will decide on the future of the airport site later this year, we recognize the community has many questions about potentially closing an airport.

While cities generally may not close the airport without the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) consent and a formal release of the city from the terms of the applicable federal obligations, some cities have closed their airport in the past.

We will know more and share what we learn with the community after completing the financial and legal analysis requested by City Council at the August 2023 meeting.

Until City Council decides on a future scenario for the airport site, the city will continue to comply with our existing FAA obligations to safely operate and maintain the airport.

3. What would happen to emergency response and recovery if the airport closes? 

We would continue to meet our emergency needs.

Communities without an airport rely on surrounding airports, sports fields, open space, parks and other large spaces to run helicopter flights into and out of affected areas to deliver people and pets to safety.

All future scenarios for the Boulder Municipal Airport site also include facilities to accommodate helicopter operations for emergency response and recovery. This would allow for clear zones for arriving and departing aircraft, allowing for efficient helicopter operations and staging.

Currently, some specialized firefighting aircraft can’t land at the Boulder Municipal Airport, as our runway is too short for these larger aircraft. During emergencies, these aircraft are based at neighboring airports. For example, aerial tankers, which are large firefighting aircraft, are based at the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport instead.

At Boulder Municipal Airport

Example Firefighting Aircraft at Boulder Municipal Airport
Examples of firefighting aircraft at Boulder Municipal Airport

At Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport

  Example Firefighting Aircraft at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport
Examples of firefighting aircraft at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport

4. How is the airport funded?

The Boulder Municipal Airport does not receive sales or property tax revenue.

The airport is instead funded by the Boulder Airport Enterprise Fund, and state and federal grants. It is funded primarily through airport ground leases including hangar rental fees. The Airport Enterprise Fund collects fees for use of the airport from both operators who are either based at the airport or are visiting. This includes taxes on each gallon of fuel sold.

The State of Colorado and the Federal Aviation Administration also provide capital improvement grants annually to BDU, such as for runway maintenance, averaging about $250,000 per year. By federal law, all revenues generated at an airport must be spent on the airport.

5. How does the airport manage noise? Can the city restrict flights?

Local airports like the Boulder Municipal Airport are part of a nationwide aviation system governed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). For consistency across states and cities, federal law requires that noise policies for aircraft in flight are strictly under the jurisdiction of the FAA.

While the City of Boulder does not have the authority to create or enforce rules around noise, we aim to help reduce the impacts of aircraft noise by:

  • Operating a Voluntary Noise Abatement Program to educate and encourage pilots to fly friendly and minimize noise.
  • Operating an online reporting system and phone hotline for community members to report non-compliant flights and view flights on a map in near real-time.
  • Collecting and reporting data on noise-compliant and non-compliant flights. Data is shared with airport tenants to encourage minimizing flight activities near surrounding communities, especially during noise-sensitive hours between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.

Quick Links

What do you want to know about the future of the airport site? 

While no decision has been reached at this point for the future of the airport site, we're committed to continuing to share the facts and encourage you to submit your questions or view the Airport FAQ.