Steven Busch, 36, loves flying planes.
He loves it so much he bought a private jet airport after buying a Boca Grande home. Busch greatly improved the air facilities, including expanding the runway from 4,200 to 6,000 feet. The facility, which reopened in November, is now known as the Coral Creek Airport and Boca Grande Jet Center.
Busch, son of famed Anheuser-Busch beer magnate Auggie Busch III, was his father's executive assistant and now owns Krey Distributing Co. in St. Peters, Mo. He gave the following insights into his reasoning for the expansion and a glimpse into the future of the airport designed to service Boca Grande.
QUESTION: Why the airport expansion?
ANSWER: The runway was too narrow and susceptible to crosswinds. We made it safer and you can operate it when it's wet.
Q: Will this lead to more development and perhaps a larger airport in the future?
Steven Busch at a glance
Occupation: manager Coral Creek Airport Holdings LLC and Krey Distributing Co. in St. Peters, Mo.
Residence: Boca Grande and St. Louis
Family: married 10 years with two boys
Education: bachelor's degree in business administration from Washington University in 1999 and a master's degree from Olin School of Business in 2000
Moved to Boca Grande: March 2012
A: You'll never see an airliner here. If you look in the public permit filings this is a fixed base operation. It's basically like a gas station for planes. More than 6,000 acres of land surrounding the airport is owned by the state and will be preserved in perpetuity.
Q: Why name the facility the Coral Creek Airport and Boca Grande Jet Center?
A: It's our intent to run the operation in the spirit of how Boca Grande is - as a very private facility. It's not going to become a commercial entity.
Q: Was Boca Grande demand part of the driving force for renovation?
A: I'll put it this way: It's not so much demand as the usability of the airport. If you get a crosswind the plane wants to drift and this was a very narrow runway. It would preclude someone from wanting to land here. People didn't want to come at night. We had the permits and so we said let's do this thing. It made the airport 10 times safer.
Q: What is an estimate of the traffic level?
A: On average, about 30 planes monthly during busy season or about one a day. It will be less than that in off-season.
Q: What do you tell people with noise concerns?
A: A lot of people ask about noise and most airplanes coming in here are corporate jets with little noise. Noise is an issue at every airport. These jets are much quieter than they used to be and much quieter than the airliners. We encourage everybody to stay at 1,500 feet coming in and not to go over the island. When landing, the noise levels are very low because you're not in power. When taking off, jets quickly reach a safe height and the noise is not bad.
Q: What time of day will most flights occur?
A: There will be night operations and there will be early morning operations but the nature of this is mostly in the daytime.
Q: How much of the airport property is pavement?
A: Less than 25 percent of the property involves asphalt or structures, 60 percent is open space and 25 percent has been left in its natural state.
Q: Why was the old entrance moved?
A: It was moved about 1,400 feet because it was problematic. It crossed the runway.
Q: How did the turtle survey come out?
A: We moved out 15 gopher tortoises. So all the turtles are taken care of, which is nice.
Q: Will gators be a problem?
A: I think we'll have gators. When you do the mitigation we've done you're improving the ground for the things that should be and need to be here. You're making the environment better for the kind of animals and things that want to grow here.
Q: What's the cost of the project?
A: I don't want to release the cost figure.
Q: How often do you fly?
A: We're avid pilots. We like Boca Grande and want to be here. It was important to us to have the airport so close to the island. We have a couple small planes out here. We have a home on the island.
Q: What got you into flying?
A: My dad's been flying for about 55 years so I grew up flying with him. There's always something different with the weather.
Q: Did someone approach you about the airport sale or did you reach out?
A: We reached out. It definitely made sense for us.
Q: Will this be a moneymaking operation?
A: It will be financially sound.
Q: What sort of economic impact will a small jet center exert on this area?
A: We employed about 100 people on the eight-month construction project and we have a three-person staff at the airport. We provide a meaningful tax contribution to the local economy.
Q: What's left to do to finish the project?
A: Our goal was to get the runway open by Thanksgiving, which we did. Basically all that is left is cosmetic. We need another coat on the runway and finishing some parking aprons. Definitely it will be done by spring.
Q: Do the Busch's have any more to do with baseball?
A: No we don't. My grandfather was very passionate about it and it was one of those things where it didn't really fit corporately at a certain point.
Q: Was it your grandfather who discovered Boca Grande for the Busch family?
A: They had a fishing boat called Miss Budweiser in 1955 when Boca Grande was really different. They would come down here and fish for tarpon a lot with Capt. John Downing. My dad came a lot as a kid. They would come and entertain customers. I came down in 2008 and my wife has been doing spring break here for 25 years.