Battle erupts over relic near old airport terminal

Visitors to Indianapolis International Airport may have long ago forgotten a BP filling station/Burger King that once operated in the shadow of the airport's old passenger terminal abandoned five years ago.

But not forgetful is the Indianapolis Airport Authority, which has asked a federal court to force Ohio-based BP Exploration & Oil Inc. to continue paying $187,872 in annual lease and concession payments until the station lease expires in September 2019.

The Authority's lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, alleges breach of contract by the oil giant.

“BP has indicated its intention to continue to breach the terms of the lease and has refused demands for payment pursuant to the terms of the lease,” the authority said.

Airport authority officials told IBJ on Friday that BP ceased operating the station in 2009, and stopped making annual lease and concession payments in October of this year.

BP's commitment for the final six years of the lease would equal more than $1.1 million.

BP has not yet responded to the suit; a summons wasn’t issued until Thursday. On Friday morning, BP representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment from IBJ.

The now-abandoned BP station at 2165 South High School Road was less than a mile north of the old passenger terminal.

The authority alleges that in 1999 it amended its lease with BP to allow it to relocate near the future midfield terminal, which would open a decade later in 2008.

It said BP declined to exercise its right to relocate and had indicated that its primary customer base at the old station was employees of surrounding businesses and residences, rather than airport travelers.

Although the new terminal opened in late 2008, a new fueling station didn't open near the new, midfield passenger terminal until September of this year.

The new service plaza includes a Shell gas station and a Circle K convenience store. A Subway restaurant and Petro’s Chili and Chips are to open by the end of this month.
The airport inked a pact last year with Jericho, N.Y.-based Airport Plazas LLC to build the facility. 

Demolition of the old terminal to the east of the airport was completed this year to make the site more attractive to potential tenants. The authority envisions aviation-related businesses for the old terminal site, given its direct access to the airfield.

Areas farther away, including a vast sea of former passenger parking lots, could be suitable for logistics, manufacturing and other industries needing quick access to air and interstates.

Some local economic development officials have said the former terminal could be a good location for Boeing’s planned $10 billion aircraft factory, which will make a new version of its 777 wide-body jet.

The plant would employ more than 8,000 workers and be the economic development deal of the decade. However, Indiana is among at least 14 other states vying for the Boeing plant, and Indianapolis even faces competition from within the state.

For example, the Gary/Chicago International Airport is already home to Boeing’s corporate jet fleet business and is close to the company’s Chicago headquarters. Northwest Indiana officials are lobbying to land the Boeing factory.

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