Construction begins at Ohio State airport for $20 million terminal and education center

The groundbreaking ceremony of the $20 million Austin E. Knowlton Executive Terminal and Aviation Education Center construction took place Saturday. Credit: Summer Cartwright | Campus Editor

Ohio State’s Don Scott Airport is getting a major facelift to its infrastructure with the groundbreaking of the Austin E. Knowlton Executive Terminal and Aviation Education Center Saturday.

The funds for the terminal and education center’s construction and development come in part from a $10 million donation from the Austin E. Knowlton Foundation in 2015. Completion of the project is expected to be in 2019.

Discussion with Ohio State and the Knowlton Foundation began before President Michael Drake’s hiring, with a trip to Cincinnati for the College of Engineering Dean David Williams and former university president, Gordon Gee. The pair discussed possible contributions from the foundation with John and Eric Lindberg, the foundation’s president and trustee, respectively.

A rendering of the Austin E. Knowlton Executive Terminal and Aviation Education Center. Courtesy of Ohio State

The Knowlton Foundation, created in 1981, provides direct grants and contributions to colleges and universities to promote and advance higher education, according to the foundation’s website. Ohio State’s school of architecture is also named after Knowlton.

John Lindberg said the foundation’s vision for the project will take the university airport from what it is today to more of a focal point for Ohio State.  

“Our vision of this project and the vision if you stand out at that tarmac and look at where that terminal is going to be is to create a bandwidth for the university; a gateway that is just as important if not more important than some of the gateways that lead to this great university,” John Lindberg said.  

John Lindberg recalled the conversation with Gee and Williams during the groundbreaking ceremony, joking it was the first time Williams found out Ohio State had an airport. This notion of a somewhat neglected area of campus was discussed throughout the ceremony, with Williams admitting that the airport has been somewhat ignored by the university in the past, even leading to discussion of selling the land.

“When we went down to the meeting, President Gee said to me, ‘Does this mean I can’t sell your airport?’ And I said you bet your sweet bow tie you can’t,” Williams said.

Ohio State’s airport is located on Case Road in Columbus. Credit: Summer Cartwright | Campus Editor

With the $10 million donation, the airport, located on Case Road in Columbus, about fifteen minutes north of campus, will no longer be in talks of sale or be a relatively unknown asset to the university, Williams said; it will be a combination of education, research and outreach — all missions of the College of Engineering.

He said the future of the airport’s education center and terminal revolves around smart technology such as remote piloting of air vehicles and drones.

Drake noted the potential for the airport, as well, inlcuding that it is imperative for Ohio State to keep up with evolving technology.

“So many of the fields, so many of the jobs that we have today, so many professions are changing with technology and the knowledge pace of our economy moving fast and forward,” Drake said.

Ohio State began its construction of Don Scott airport in 1942. Credit: Summer Cartwright | Campus Editor

He added part of a land grant university’s is bringing about change and updates to the communities it surrounds.

“We’re a land grant university, that’s at the heart of our existence, the heart of our admission, the why are we here, the what are we here doing and that means that we’re here for the people of the region of the state to be able to train people — to be able to do things that uplift the quality of life in the region — and this is a perfect example of that,” Drake said.

With all of the efforts leading up to the groundbreaking, and all of the expectation set in its completion, Williams ended the ceremony with a confidence many see associated with the university.

“There’s no question that this is the best damn university airport in the land,” he said.

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