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Pittsburgh International Marks 20 Years in Findlay

Officials say moving the airport terminal outside of Moon Township left a lasting mark on the community.

Former Moon Manager Greg Smith said it was a wake-up call for the township. 

"We were really an airport service community, that's how we were viewed," said Smith, who served as manager of Moon Township from 1984 to 2008. 

"That was our lifeblood. And when (the terminal) moved we had to really take a look at things," he said.  

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the Pittsburgh International terminal's relocation from Moon Township to the neighboring Findlay.

The first flight, arriving from California, landed at the newly opened Findlay facility just before 6 a.m. on Oct. 1, 1992. 

After opening as a public airport in 1952, Pittsburgh International's terminal, housed at the site of the current Airside Business Park, served as an economic generator for Moon, drawing travelers and businesses alike to the township. 

When Smith was tapped as township manager in 1984, plans were already underway to close the Moon terminal and move the operation to Findlay. 

By the fall of 1992, with the new Findlay terminal up and running, traffic slowed along Beers School Road, now called as University Boulevard. 

Millions of dollars in parking tax revenue that once flowed in from public lots surrounding the Moon terminal dried up, Smith said. Hotels and restaurants closed. 

Ronald Potter, president of the Old Moon Township Historical Society, said the economic impact on the community was unmistakable. 

“It was a huge concern,” Potter said. “We had a number of motels, I can think of at least three, that used to be totally booked by guests and airline workers and people coming to the Pittsburgh area. And they ended up just closing. There was definitely an impact on business.” 

Smith said in the years before the facility was built, Moon officials lobbied for a direct access route from the township to the Findlay terminal.

The township installed three interchanges to better accommodate the planned direct access way: Thorn Run Interchange, International Drive Interchange and Ewing Road Interchange. 

But plans for a more direct route between the township and terminal never came to fruition. 

"I can't tell you how many hundreds of meetings I went to when we were trying to get that route," Smith said. "We tried, but the county said it wasn't feasible. I still don't agree with that. I still think it was more of a political thing. But they decided against us." 

The airport on Saturday will open its doors to the public to celebrate its two decades at the Findlay terminal.

Airport officials will open the Airmall to the public and allow spectators to visit the gates, where they can watch planes take off and land, "just like the days prior to 9/11," according to an airport press release. 

County officials hoped the Findlay terminal would usher in a boom era for the airport. In 1993, an airport master plan projected that some 40 million travelers would fly through Pittsburgh International in 2012, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 

More than a decade of stunted growth in the airline industry and the 2004 closure of U.S. Airways' Pittsburgh International hub have quelled those hopes.   

This year, just 8.4 million people will travel through Pittsburgh International, the newspaper reports. The airport flies directly to 36 destinations, down from more than 150 in 1992. 

Smith said Moon was forced to refocus itself after the closure of its terminal. 

He said township officials began to court corporate office development rather than service industry, leading to the construction of the Cherrington office park. 

"We wanted to become more of a university-based community, with Robert Morris," he said. "We also wanted to attract those corporate entities, like FedEx and GlaxoSmithKline. That was our strategy. We needed to shift our philosophy and that's what we did." 

Has Moon rebounded since the relocation of the airport terminal? How did the move impact the community? Tell us in the comments. 

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