WASHINGTON (Army News Service, July 10, 2012) --- The Army is well on its way to accomplishing its goal of building and remodeling lodging facilities at 42 bases in both the United States and Puerto Rico.

So far, six hotels have been renovated and ground has been broken for two new ones as part of the Army's plan to reduce costs to itself and improve lodging facilities for Soldiers and their families.

The six renovated facilities are located at Fort Polk, La.; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Sill, Okla.; Fort Rucker, Ala.; Fort Wainwright, Alaska and Fort Hamilton, N.Y. The two still in the process of being built are Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and Fort Riley, Kan.

The goal of privatization is to cut down on renovation costs that are not in the Army's budget but still improve the quality of life on-base hotels. After discovering in 2003 that 80 percent of Army lodging facilities failed to meet standard, the Army began brainstorming ways to address the issue. Improvements to facilities, it was discovered, would come with a hefty price tag.

"The estimated requirement for new construction and renovation to bring the facilities to the standard was $1.2 billion," said Rhonda Hayes, the chief of capital ventures for the deputy assistant secretary of the Army for installations and environment.

In 2005, the Military Housing Privatization Initiative was designed to keep the cost of the renovations down.

"We privatized 10 installations in 2009, we did another 11 in August of 2011, and then the final 21 installations will be done by next spring," Hayes said. This means that the legal matters and paperwork will be complete at this time, from which point the seven-year building and renovations process begins.

In terms of how Soldiers and their families will benefit from the transition, Hayes is optimistic that they will notice the improved condition of the lodging, especially for those who plan on long-term stays.

"Our hope is that [the changes] will be transparent to them," she said. "[The hotels] will actually be upgraded and things have been done to preserve them."

Original Army hotels are being converted to the Holiday Inn Express model, while new hotels that are being built are designed using a Candlewood Suite model.

Both brands fall under the InterContinental Hotels & Resorts parent company. Hayes said having a common standard ensures the same excellent condition from hotel to hotel, regardless of location, and that guests stand to receive the same benefits at a base hotel as they would at a regular hotel. Amenities include, among other things, reward points for club members and free breakfasts.

The Army is also taking into account Soldiers who may need to stay at on-base hotels for an extended amount of time, such as for a months-long training period. Hayes said the Candlewood Suites model was picked because it caters to long-term guests and features home-like conveniences such as kitchenettes and work spaces.

"It's more of a long-term stay type of property," she said. "A Soldier may go and work two weeks to six months in training, so it's a different type of environment."

As part of the privatization of Army lodging facilities, the Army conveys existing facilities and the land they sit on to a qualified partner for a 50-year lease. The partner improves the existing facility, or builds a new facility, using private money. The partner also operates and maintains the new facility.

The entire hotel-privatization development is estimated to be completed by spring 2020, will span 42 installations, and will include 14,300 rooms.

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