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The local airport has a new name: the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport at Gallatin Field.

More than 35 people were on hand late Thursday afternoon in the airport bar that served as the Gallatin Airport Authority meeting room when board members voted to change the name of the airport from Gallatin Field Airport.

“We do believe that Bozeman Yellowstone Park International Airport will make a difference to someone in Japan, Germany or even Georgia when they choose from a list of the seven airports that serve (Yellowstone),” airport director Brian Sprenger said as he revealed the staff recommendation.

Authority members deemed the word “park” superfluous in the airport title.

The name change is the latest in a series of developments at the airport this year. A $40 million terminal expansion was completed in August; $400,000 was donated to establish a customs service; and the airport received a $950,000 federal grant in September to establish a direct flight between New York City and Bozeman.

Changing the airport’s name should simplify things for out-of-state travelers, Sprenger told board members, because the three-letter airport code — “BZN” — will now be reflected in the name. Out-of-state travelers make up 65 percent of the airport’s traffic.

The name “Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport” makes the airport competitive in attracting tourists, especially international tourists, visiting the park, Sprenger said. The word “international” often is the deciding factor for people coming from other countries, he said. And including “at Gallatin Field” maintains some of the local heritage.

All of the dozen or so people who addressed the board spoke in favor of the name change. Debra Youngberg, executive director of the Belgrade Chamber of Commerce, was the only commenter who didn’t fully endorse the new name, but she concluded her remarks by saying she understood the reasoning behind the change.

Board member Steve Williamson spoke out against the name, saying that it was too long — “sounds like a law firm” — and was misleading by claiming to be an international airport before the U.S. Customs and Border Protection is established at the airport.

Besides, he said, the number of people using the airport has steadily increased despite not having “international” or any reference to Yellowstone in its name.

Board member Ted Mathis also felt the word “international” was a bit deceptive, given that the airport doesn’t yet have customs services and doesn’t know how long it will have them once they are established.

Airports have to pay for customs services, Sprenger explained after the meeting. The airport, Yellowstone Club and another entity have committed to funding the customs office for its first year, he said. Projections show user fees — paid by airlines using the airport’s customs office — will cover about 80 percent of the cost of running the customs office, Sprenger said. The final 20 percent will be covered by the three groups that are funding the first year of service.

He admitted the airport is “stretching it a little bit” by including “international” in the name but said many airports do the same thing.

When it came before the board for a vote, only Williamson dissented.

A firm date for the name to take effect was not set at the meeting. When asked, board chairman John McKenna said it would be “soon.”

“It reflects who we are and our vision for the future,” McKenna said.

Jason Bacaj may be reached at jasonb@dailychronicle.com or 582-2635

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