Lounging around: New foundation looks to make Gander airport space a community hub
The Gander International Airport Lounge is legendary. With visitors such as Queen Elizabeth, the Beatles, Albert Einstein, Johnny Cash, Tom Cruise, Frank Sinatra, and Marilyn Monroe, it has been a place for some iconic travellers.
And now it's a place for everyone else, too.
The international lounge is not a new fixture — it was opened by the Queen in 1959 but closed to the public in the 1970s for security measures — but the International Lounge Foundation is a new group that aims to turn the lounge into a hub for both the community and travellers.
The lounge reopened in June after a years-long remodelling, and the foundation was set up to explore possibilities for the space.
Foundation chair Stephanie Power said their mission is "conserving, curating and ultimately celebrating everything that the international lounge has to offer."
Jessica Waterman, vice-chair of the foundation, said the lounge has been restored to its original 1959 colours and the bar has been revamped to serve coffee. A new community board room, an art gallery and a gift shop have all been added.
"We're really hoping to get the community into the space now," said Waterman, an artist who helped redesign the lounge.
While the board does not have a document outlining their goals yet, Power said, enhancing community connection will be a priority, and they'll be juggling the needs and wants of visitors to the province with the needs and wants of the community.
Power and Waterman grew up in Gander and have memories of the space from when they were young, even though they didn't have access to it.
Waterman said the space is too beautiful not to use, and she wants her kids to be able to use the space in a way she couldn't.
"I want to bring my kids up, you know, bring them up to get some ice cream, grab a coffee, spend some time in the space. Because growing up, we didn't have access to it. Opening it up to the community so that we can see it and use it — because it was always behind glass — is very important," she said.
The lounge will be a place to make memories in a place that is important to the community, said Power, and the foundation's plans can solidify the heritage and role of the airport — which she called the town's "raison d'être" — in Gander.
"I want, in 20 or 30 years, when the kids of today look back on growing up, you know, I want them to remember when they used to come up to the international lounge and get an ice cream on a Saturday afternoon with their parents or whatever. Whatever those little memories are."