Expanding to Meet Current Needs

by Nancy Sajdak Manning


A smiling 1960s airline stewardess leaves Tri City Airport in Freeland, Saginaw County, with a luscious fresh pineapple-a symbol of hospitality-possibly directly from the newest state of Hawaii (1959).

Tri City Airport, which opened in 1943, was renamed MBS (Midland-Bay-Saginaw) International Airport in 1994 to avoid confusion with similar named airports. Since 1943, the regional airport has grown by adapting and expanding to meet the varied needs of government, airlines, and business, vacation and other travelers.

The current terminal building opened in 1965. By 1980, Tri City Airport was the third busiest in Michigan and its terminal was enlarged and the northeast-southwest runway was extended to accommodate bigger jets. Recently, airport consultants determined that a new terminal was needed to enable MBS International Airport to meet current and future aviation requirements and to aid with regional growth and development. The new terminal designed by Reynolds, Smith and Hills Inc. allows for future expansion. Grant dollars from the FAA Airport Improvement Program plus additional funds from the state of Michigan and MBS are funding the new terminal expected to open in 2013.

Tri City Airport was initially built by the federal government during World War II to serve as a pilot training field. Near the end of the war, German military prisoners were housed in barracks there. In 1946, the War Assets Administration turned the field over to the Tri-City Airport Commission, which was comprised of the three cities of Midland, Saginaw, and Bay City, who agreed to enlarge, improve and finance the airport. Bay City later turned its responsibility over to Bay County. Photo courtesy of MBS International Airport.

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