In 1931, the Bemidji Civic and Commerce Association purchased approximately 160 acres of wooded land just northwest of town for use as an airport. The cost, including back taxes and 36 acres of tree clearing, was $1,625.
The Association presented the property to the City of Bemidji in 1932 and the airport began operations with an all-way field. By 1941, the airport included over 150 cleared acres and a hangar. The land comprising the airport at that time is located in what is now the southeast corner of the airport. By 1944, the airport had grown significantly to the northwest, increasing the total acreage to nearly 1,600 acres. The US Government designated the field as a “secondary defense airport” and embarked on a series of improvements. The all-way field was replaced with two paved and lighted 5,700 foot runways, a 4,000 foot turf runway and a 2,500 turf runway.
Commercial air service began in 1952 with the arrival of flights operated by North Central Airlines. Commercial service continues to the present day. The turf runways were abandoned by the late 1970s and in December of 1981, the official airport name was changed to the “Bemidji /Beltrami County Airport." In 2005, the name was changed to the “Bemidji Regional Airport” to better reflect its role in serving the entire region.
In 2006 and continuing until the Fall of 2008 the airport underwent a complete removal and replacement of all the runways and taxiways, upgrading of the weather reporting system, installation of additional Instrument Landing system for Runway 25 along with the planning and acquisition of a VOR for the airport by the state to replace a decommissioned federal system. Also completed in 2009 was a complete replacement of all airfield electrical systems and installation of new back-up generation systems.
Finally, effective January 1, 2009 the airport transitioned from being jointly owned and operated by the city of Bemidji and Beltrami County to ownership and operation by an Airport Authority with its own tax levy and funding responsibilities. This was done to provide additional visibility of the airport financial structure and cost to the communities it supports.
Recently the airport has completed a ramp rehabilitation project as a part of the federal recovery program and is planning the rehabilitation and modernization of the now 20 year old terminal, including substantial energy improvement efforts. It is currently undergoing a major renovation of the terminal and aircraft rescue and firefighting facility (ARFF) funded under the Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Improvement Program. This project when complete through all three phases is estimated to be approximately $8 million in improvements.