PUYALLUP RESERVATION, Tacoma, Wash.—Members of the Puyallup Tribal Council and Kenmore Air leadership touched down this morning at the Puyallup Tribal Air Terminal for the first official flight into Ruston Way, marking the start of flights from Commencement Bay.
The first public flights begin on Friday, Aug. 11. They will take off and land at a new seaplane dock positioned between the RAM Restaurant & Brewery at 3001 Ruston Way and the former C.I. Shenanigan’s restaurant. Tickets are on sale at kenmoreair.com (click on “Flights and Charters” and “South Sound Scenic Flight.”)
Puyallup Tribal Council and Kenmore Air leadership began the new terminal’s grand opening by landing at the Puyallup Air Terminal. After a blessing, drumming and dancing, Puyallup Tribal Council Chairman Bill Sterud spoke about the significance of the new terminal to the Tribe’s economic development, and Kenmore Air President David Gudgel shared his thoughts about the popular seaplane operator’s partnership with the Tribe and expansion into the South Sound.
Chairman Sterud also welcomed elected officials Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland, State Senator Yasmin Trudeau, Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier, Pierce County Council Chair Ryan Mello and Tacoma City Councilmember John Hines, who shared their thoughts on this historic partnership.
“This is a fun day, a historic day. We’re here to celebrate the opening of a first of its kind business partnership: The Puyallup Tribe and Kenmore Air coming together to open this seaplane terminal,” said Puyallup Tribal Council Chairman Bill Sterud. “Not to brag, but we like to think big, we like to think out of the box, and you never know where we’re gonna go. We’re going up in the air now.”
This year’s scenic flight season will run until Oct. 15with Kenmore Air planes taking customers on a 20-minute scenic flight over the South Sound. Passengers will soak in stunning views of Mount Rainier, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, Commencement Bay, Puget Sound, Vashon Island, and other sights. The scenic flights will then resume in April, and flight operations may expand with service to the San Juan Islands and Victoria, B.C.
“We’re so honored to be part of your big, audacious plans. … We moved mountains to make this happen,” said David Gudgel, president of Kenmore Air.
The new dock is adjacent to two acres of land that the Tribe purchased in 2021. In addition to the RAM restaurant, the property includes the former C.I. Shenanigan’s, which is being converted into a new Native / internationally inspired restaurant with world-renowned Chef Roy Yamaguchi.
Expanded air service would also open the Tribe’s casinos and hospitality venues to visitors from British Columbia and beyond. In May 2020, the Tribe opened its new $400 million Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma as well as its adjacent 155-room luxury hotel in December 2021. Recently, the Tribe inaugurated sports betting at its Tacoma casino and its EQC location in Fife through a partnership with BetMGM.
With 25 aircraft in operation, 52 pilots on staff and more than 250 employees during peak season, Kenmore Air is among the best-known and most respected seaplane operators in the world. In the future, the partnership will work together to create an aviation job training program for interested Puyallup Tribal Members.
Since 2020, the Puyallup Tribal Council and its economic development team have aggressively worked to diversify and expand the Tribe’s economic base. In addition to opening the new casino, purchasing the Ruston Way property, partnering with Kenmore Air and Yamaguchi, it partnered with Amazon on a new sort center and started a new company, Tahoma Global Logistics, using its port property. On June 20, the Puyallup Tribal Council and the Seattle FIFA World Cup local organizing committee announced the Tribe as cultural partner of Seattle FIFA World Cup 26—the first such partnership in FIFA World Cup history.
The partnership with Kenmore Air makes it the only Tribe in the United States to bring seaplane services into its economic portfolio.