Just north of the Indiana Toll Road, off Cline Avenue, sits the Gary/Chicago International Airport.
Its name sounds substantial. Its annual budget is in the millions of dollars. And Chicagoans -- along with citizens of Gary -- spend millions in tax dollars every year to help keep it in business.
But in spite of an annual operating budget of more than $3 million -- plus tens of millions more being spent on a runway expansion and other capital projects -- the GCIA terminal sits mostly empty. The front entrance is usually locked; the parking lot is nearly vacant, and the skies are -- for the most part -- empty.
That’s because GCIA has only one passenger flight -- Allegiant Airlines Flight 650. It flies nonstop from Sanford, Fla., to Gary, where passengers unload and new passengers board. Allegiant changes the flight number to 651, and the plane takes off and heads back to Sanford.
It’s time on the ground in Gary: Usually less than one hour.
Once the flight is gone, the terminal is shut down and locked up for several days. The Allegiant flight only comes to Gary twice a week, on Thursdays and Sundays. That’s it.
Millions and millions wasted, nothing going on. Sounds almost like a green energy subsidy, doesn't it? One of the back stories here is that Gary seems to have out Chicagoed Chicago (in thug politics, that is). A lot of the money flowing into the airport comes the "Compact" reached between Gary and Chicago back in the 1990s that requires Chicago to send the aiport over $1 million a year in tax money and even more in fees collected from O'Hare and Midway passengers.
I continue to think "International" is a tad pretentious for airports in cities the size of, say, Gary or, oh, Fort Wayne. If it can still be "O'Hare International Airport," why the hell can't we have "Baer Field International Airport," huh, huh, huh?