No beer, cash-only food await race fans flying into TCRA

Hank Hayes • Aug 23, 2007 at 12:00 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Hungry and thirsty race fans flying into Tri-Cities Regional Airport today will have to pay cash to get food prepared by a vending company and won’t be able to partake of alcoholic beverages inside the airport terminal.

Earlier this month, TCRA terminated the food and beverage service contract of airport restaurant operator Staci Robinson, who also held the license to sell beer and other alcoholic beverages. The Airport Commission determined Robinson did not meet the requirements of a multi-year contract that began last December.

Melissa Thomas, TCRA’s director of marketing and air service development, said the transition to turning over the food service operation to Canteen Vending has been relatively smooth.

“We now have vending machines in place on the concourse and in the restaurant space. Canteen Vending is stocking the vending machines daily,” she said in an e-mail. “In addition, we have a selection of salads, sandwiches and breakfast items made fresh daily and served from refrigerated cases in the restaurant area. ... (But) at this time we are not taking credit cards, nor are there alcoholic beverages for sale.”

This weekend is traditionally one of TCRA’s busiest of the year, as commercial flights are filled with NASCAR fans while scores of incoming private planes turn the airfield into one big parking lot.

“Inbound flights are full on all carriers for Thursday and Friday,” Thomas said. “US Airways added a flight and upgraded to larger aircraft to accommodate race traffic. Outbound flights on Sunday and Monday are also full.”

Typically, TCRA will serve between 175 and 190 general aviation aircraft ranging from single-engine planes to 727 jets for the August race. There is a great deal of activity on the airfield during race weekends with regularly scheduled commercial flights, private aircraft and helicopter operations shuttling passengers from the airfield to Bristol Motor Speedway.

For more about TCRA go to www.triflight.com.

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