By Angie Thorne, Fort Polk Guardian staff writerApril 19, 2010
FORT POLK, La. -- Fort Polk's Magnolia House hosted a celebration April 7 to highlight the changes taking place in temporary housing on post. The get-together garnered interest in what the privatization of Army lodging (PAL) has accomplished so far by allowing the community to see completed renovations.
Sarah White, Residential Communities Initiative Housing Chief for Fort Polk, said the celebration's purpose was to let everybody know what's going on. "There's an impact to privatizing temporary housing on post and the partner that we've selected has made a difference already. We wanted to get the word out because it's important for people to see progress as we go along," said White.
The company overseeing operations in what will soon be brand-name lodging is InterContinental Hotels Group. "We wanted to showcase the changes IHG has brought since we began managing Magnolia House and our plans for the future. These changes will give our guests and the Army an idea of what our company is doing in terms of taking care of Soldiers staying with us now and in the future," said Chandra Badola, IHG general manager.
Updating furnishings and making the rooms more aesthetically pleasing are the basics of the many transformations taking place.
Rick Fetter, senior project manager, is in charge of renovations. He said that in comparison to other sites he has worked on, the building wasn't in bad shape. "A lot of what was here was quite old and dated, but it's just a cosmetic makeover," said Fetter.
He said he's seen the changes having a positive affect on Soldiers and their Families. "Guests have told me this is a huge improvement over what they had before. Everyone I've talked to that has stayed in the new rooms has been very happy," said Fetter.
The rooms are a nice upgrade for Families, said Badola. "Everything you see in the rooms is brand new from the flat screen televisions to side table lamps. The difference to the rooms is like day and night. I think the renovations will make people feel more welcome," he said.
Once Magnolia House renovations are finished, it will become a Holiday Inn Express. "We're expecting to finish sometime at the end of June. We have a sign waiting to go up and guests will receive all the amenities they would expect from the brand's standards," said Badola. The next renovation project on the list is Cypress Inn, which will also become a Holiday Inn Express once finished.
Above and beyond completing renovations, the reshaping of management and improvement in customer service has been a top priority. "I think the biggest change from the first day was customer service. IHG are professionals in the business of serving their guests. We've gotten a lot of comments about the improvement in customer service from the Families staying here. They said they feel welcomed and appreciated," said White.
In addition to the transformations taking place with Fort Polk's existing temporary housing, IHG continues with plans to build a new hotel on the installation in the near future. "The worst dilemma facing Soldiers and their Families is not having a place to stay while PCSing. The new hotel will add 200 more rooms to our inventory, so that we don't have Families who can't stay on post. Plans are to have the new hotel started in the next three to four years and typical construction for a building like that is around eighteen months," said White.
For more on improvements to Fort Polk, keep reading the Guardian.