Gov. Doug Burgum joined Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer for the Williston Basin International’s ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, Oct. 4.
Burgum was joined by other special guests for the ceremony, which was held six days before the first flight is scheduled to land at the $275 million facility. He shared the importance of what XWA will mean not only to the Williston region, but the state as a whole.
“These projects just don’t happen without enormous collaboration from enormous people,” Burgum told the crowd. “But all of that happening and happening here in this time frame with this kind of quality outcome, I just want to remind people how lucky we are to be in North Dakota. These kinds of things don’t happen in the rest of our country, they certainly don’t happen in the rest of the world, but North Dakota’s a place where people like this get together and get stuff done. And that’s what makes this a historic day for Williston and the entire Bakken region. Williston Basin International Airport is an incredible facility. It’s going to serve a growing population and provide vital air services to sustain long-term economic expansion, continue to bring new people, new businesses and new opportunity to the region.”
The airport is set to commence operations on Oct. 10, with the first United Airlines flight coming in from Denver around 10:50 a.m. Hoeven and Cramer, along with former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, have been instrumental in working to secure federal funding for the project, with the government paying $112 million of the airport’s cost. Hoeven also worked to secure the airport’s international designation, working with Customs and Border Protection to transfer the designation from Sloulin Field to XWA, saving the airport around $161,000 annually.
“When you come in and you see the result, it was sure worth it.” Hoeven said. “It was sure a great project. Take the beginning concrete, finishing on time, all these things, that’s that North Dakota ‘Can Do’ common sense that gets things done.”
“A favorite proverb of mine is a Japanese proverb,” Cramer told the crowd. “That proverb says ‘Vision without action is a daydream. Action without a vision is a nightmare.’ Today, we’re seeing the vision that became a dream come true.”
Currently, Sloulin Field sees about 10,000 passengers per month, a number that it was expected to see annually. The new airport is designed to accommodate around 350,000 passengers annually.
The 110,000 square foot commercial terminal building features all the amenities one would expect from a modern airport, including an automated baggage screener, a full service restaurant and lounge, passenger jet bridges, and expanded check-in and security services.
After the ribbon cutting, guests were invited to join the dignitaries in taking part in a buffalo feed, as well as tours of the facility and entertainment by local musician and business owner Tim Ritter.
On Saturday, Oct. 5, a ceremonial ribbon cutting for the public was held during the Community Open House, giving the general public the opportunity to see the airport before operations commence. The last flight will depart from Sloulin Field on Oct. 9, at which point Airport Director Anthony Dudas said there will be a “scramble” to quickly transition employees and systems over to XWA in time for the airport’s first arrival the next morning.