Since the 1940s, Ontario International Airport has served as a reliever airport for Los Angeles International Airport. Owned by Los Angeles, Ontario International is little known to people unfamiliar with Southern California. They often assume the airport is in Canada.
Oddly enough, plenty of the people who have never heard of the Ontario International have seen it. Ontario has played LAX, Salt Lake City International Airport, and Miami’s airport in the 1960s, as well as a generic airport in dozens of films and TV shows.
Williams Gateway Airport, which harbors ambitions of becoming a reliever airport, has some similarities with Ontario International. Hollywood is filming an action movie, set in the Middle East, just south of the Williams Gateway Airport grounds.
Our airport also has an identity problem — where is Williams Gateway? Near the Grand Canyon in Williams, Ariz.? Gateway, Ariz.? Canada?
We may be moving a step closer to being like Ontario International in another way: Ownership — at least part ownership — by the big city in the region.
Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon came out to Williams last week.
“I don’t get outside Phoenix much,’’ he said.
He was impressed enough with Williams Gateway to offer to buy a portion of it. Well, actually this has been in the works for awhile. Gordon was just out to make a formal presentation to the governing board.
Phoenix offered to put in $5 million into the Williams kitty and throw in $1.3 million a year to help operate the airport for six years. For that, Phoenix would get a share of ownership.
The question is how much of a share? Currently, Mesa has 74 percent. Phoenix is angling for 37 percent. But my guess is this will not fly with the Mesa City Council. Mesa has been the lead dog. Civic pride won’t allow any other role.
Will Mesa’s desire to keep the largest share scuttle the deal?
I hope not. This is exciting, even more than a Jamie Foxx movie being shot here. And not only for the airport.
Whether Phoenix comes on board or not, Williams will grow and become a viable second airport for the Valley. But with Phoenix on board, you get coordination with Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. You get Phoenix’s clout in marketing.
Williams can grow faster and smarter.
This perhaps signals the beginning of greater regional cooperation on growth and development issues.
Up until now, there have been two competing visions for the Valley. One — articulated by Mayor Gordon and the downtown Phoenix booster paper — is that the region’s future must revolve around downtown Phoenix, and the Valley needs to be seen as cool to attract the right kind of companies and workers. Thus we must invest public money in downtown Phoenix.
The other — articulated by this newspaper and a few clear-thinking individuals — is the region has prospered without a vibrant downtown Phoenix for decades, and the Valley is already an attractive area. Thus we must invest public money in the areas that are growing and we should create a string of villages that fit with existing population and commuting patterns.
After the meeting with the Williams board, Gordon was talking about the interconnection between Phoenix and the East Valley.
“There’s people who live in Phoenix and will work here as well as people who live here and work in Phoenix,’’ he said.
There will be plenty of airline passenger traffic for Sky Harbor and for Williams Gateway, Gordon realizes. In fact, the biggest challenge is accommodating it all.
Just as there should be plenty of population and economic growth for everyone. In fact, the biggest challenge is accommodating it all.
Maybe we can all just get along.
Now that those guys are willing to be reasonable.