Allegiant Air will announce later this month which destinations will be serviced from Arizona and Fort Lauderdale.
Cubs and Cardinals fans will have another opportunity to catch the players in action if Peoria manages to snag two new commercial air destinations later this fall.
The Greater Peoria Regional Airport is launching a media blitz this month hoping to solicit enough support from the community to sweet-talk Allegiant Air into opening connections from the River City to Phoenix-Mesa, Ariz., and Fort Lauderdale, Fla. — at or near the spring training grounds for both baseball teams.
The Las Vegas-based airline announced Wednesday it plans to establish a base of service at both cities, serving Phoenix-Mesa from 13 markets beginning Oct. 25, and Fort Lauderdale from 12 markets beginning Nov. 14. The only caveat: Allegiant has yet to announce which of the 50 cities it serves will see the service.
Airport Director Ken Spirito said Peoria stands a good chance to land both new destinations, saying the community’s population base can support the additional air service, but now is the time "we need to tell them."
The airport is setting up a message board on its Web site — www.flypia.com — where visitors can tell the airline why they want to go to Arizona or Florida.
Allegiant, which will make a decision Aug. 25, will make the announcement at O’Brien Field during a Peoria Chiefs game.
Historically, Peoria has performed well for the low-fare airline, and is regularly one of the top sellers for the direct-to-Las Vegas flights. Peoria also was among the first cities Allegiant served. Becasue of the community support, the airline expanded its service from the airport to Orlando and Tampa.
Spirito said no financial guarantees were offered to the airline, a common tool used by airports to lure in new destination.
"We’ve been talking with them for awhile about adding destinations," the airport director said.
Fort Lauderdale boasts miles of beaches, home to yacht-filled waterways, the Everglades and a port of entry for many ocean-going cruise lines. Located about one hour away is Jupiter, Fla. — where the St. Louis Cardinals train each spring.
The Mesa-Phoenix area, served through the Williams Gateway Airport, is home to year-round warm weather and considered the "golf capital of the world." Mesa also hosts the Chicago Cubs for spring training.
If Peoria manages to land both new destinations, the airport would more than double the number of destinations it served last year, from five to 11.
Dave Haney can be reached at (309) 686-3181 or firstname.lastname@example.org.