Fort Sill lodging getting face lift
April 23, 2010
- Fort Sill's lodging being renovated thanks to privatization.
- Lodging upgraded with new HVAC to meet private sector standards
- Full time concierge, upgrade to shuttle service and safety focus.
FORT SILL, Okla.--Privatized Army lodging, a two-phased process scheduled for completion in 2015, is operational here with renovations to rooms proceeding as scheduled.
Gabriele Whitaker, general manager for Intercontinental Hotel Group, the company that operates post lodging, said customers will notice new services and updated amenities.
"The Army gains first-rate facilities for its Soldiers and families from a program that includes private sector development and management practices," said Whitaker, who added this influx of capital and ideas augments the high standards that were already in place here.
As work progresses, guests are staying in a mix of renovated and existing room decors as workers with Actus Lend Lease of Nashville, Tenn., complete life and safety improvements one floor at a time to the Aultman and Allen Hall buildings.
One improvement upgraded the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system improving air quality throughout the facilities, said Jacob Moore, assistant construction manager with Actus. These updates are scheduled to be completed Nov. 5.
Private sector standards
As the new owner and developer of lodging, Actus is making capital improvements throughout the lodging facilities. Updated rooms first opened in Aultman Hall April 1 and changes are readily apparent throughout. These include improved lighting in the hallways with overhead lights above each door and prominently displayed room numbers. Once inside rooms, visitors may notice updated light fixtures, granite counter tops, 32-inch flat screen TVs, new bedding and mattresses, and refined kitchenette and bathrooms with new fixtures and appliances.
These are but a few of the upgrades that bring Army lodging to the standard of private sector hotels.
Whitaker said the phone system will also be upgraded and include high-speed Internet access within 30 to 60 days.
New to lodging, a full-time concierge, Barbara Cromartie, is on staff available for customer needs. Her sole purpose is to serve as a liaison between lodging staff and guests. For those people new to lodging, she is the go-to person for information and can help guests get the things they need to make their stay easier. Cromartie said she routes all customer complaints and compliments for review and reply, and maintains information on the current breakfast menu and shuttle schedule.
Post shuttle to 12 stops
The shuttle arrives at lodging every hour on the hour and goes to at least 12 stops around post. On a case-by-case basis, it may accommodate guest needs for transportation to other locations. Also new to Sill lodging, IHG holds weekly socials each Wednesday for guests to meet and talk with staff members and enjoy some free food.
Building on Army standards for safety, Actus workers added handrails to interior stairwells where needed, tied room fire alarms into the front desk for increased monitoring capability and added emergency lighting throughout the buildings.
As improvements are ongoing and some areas are a bit noisy during duty hours, Dave Kantor, Fort Sill Garrison liaison, expressed the appreciation of Army leaders to the outstanding cooperation of all parties involved in the renovations.
"We would also thank our customers for their patience during this time of renovation," he said. "There\'s been some inconveniences, but we're most thankful of people's understanding; we're doing everything possible to minimize any disruption from normal services."
Whitaker cited January's ice storm as one prime example of how cooperation enabled all parties to get through a trying time. Anticipating the pending storm, Actus delayed the start on another floor of renovations to provide the Army more rooms to families in homes without power and basic necessities.
In all, an additional 20 rooms were made available during this time and following the brunt of the storm Soldiers and Actus employees combined to cleanup the grounds surrounding the lodging facilities.
Actus workers have also managed to complete renovations early to accommodate Soldiers who didn't have a place to stay on post.
In addition to the high rise buildings, the three buildings that comprise Geronimo House have all been renovated with two available for guest occupancy. The other building should be open by month's end.
Actus workers will turn their attention to Comanche House starting June 15. Improvements will include safety issues and mechanical repairs.
Focus on safety
All told, life-safety renovations will focus on more than 600 of the existing 710 rooms. Adjacent to the high-rise buildings, lodging will maintain rooms until the new hotel is built. These rooms will receive life-safety improvements along with new mattresses, TVs and linen. When the new lodging facility opens these 92 rooms will revert to the garrison for its use leaving the post 757 rooms. This number is slightly less than the 800 rooms available prior to privatization, however, Soldiers and their families will stay in facilities equal to industry standards.
Whitaker said no additional employees have been hired, in part, because IHG operates under a different business model than the Army. She did say there are generally openings for housekeeping and front desk positions due to periodic turnover. More employees may be added once the new hotel is ready for operations.