Sunday, November 02, 2003

Travis Air Force Base 350-room hotel in two years

November 2, 2003

Hotel allows airmen to stay on base

By Ian Thompson

TRAVIS AFB -- Fewer Travis Air Force Base visitors will have to make the trip to Vacaville or Fairfield to get lodging once the base completes its 350-room hotel in two years.

The new hotel will significantly reduce the number of servicemembers who have to be bused to off-base hotels in Fairfield and Vacaville "at a greater expense to the government," said Doug Marchel, lodging general manager for Travis AFB.

Close to a third of those servicemembers who visit Travis AFB have to go to town, Marchel said.

"For the taxpayers, it will be easier (and cheaper) to have the airmen stay on base," Marchel said.

Several local hotels have contracts with Travis AFB to house visiting military people. The new base hotel will hurt them, Fairfield Economic Development Manager Karl Dumas said.

"They are all fighting for the same dollar and it will certainly impact those hotels, how much we are not sure," Dumas said.

Travis AFB's business is a significant part of the reason this area had a healthy hotel market while San Francisco Bay Area struggled in recent years.

Fairfield and its hotels created a tourist bureau recently "to change the dynamic of the hotels from being dependent on Travis" to serving as a central tourist stopover spot within reach of Napa, Sacramento and the Bay area, Dumas said.

"It will help lighten that impact," Dumas said of the new Travis hotel.

Travis AFB has considered putting up a new hotel since 1993. That hope was given a boost three years ago when the Air Force decided to make its hotels similar to mid-level accommodations found in nearby cities such as the Holiday Inn.

"A great deal of this is driven by quality-of-life issues," Marchel said.

Marchel currently oversees 19 separate remodeled buildings, mainly built in the 1940s and 1950s, to provide temporary accommodations for those just arriving at the base or passing through.

The plans call for putting up a $40 million four-story W-shaped hotel with 350 rooms, which will also be called The West Wind Inn, greatly increasing the base's capacity, Marchel said.

This will be second such hotel built in the Air Force. The first was at Osan Air Base in Korea. Nellis AFB, Nev., and Germany will be the next locations for a similar hotel.

"We will also be able to replace those rooms (in existing transient housing) that no longer meet government standards," Marchel said.

Ground was broken late in the summer and workers are presently preparing the foundations. Plans call for completing the building in April 2005 and opening it up to guests two months after that.

It is the latest in an ongoing campaign to renovate the transient housing. The military has spent $18 million since 1990 to renovate 15 buildings.

"I love it," Marchel said of the project. "It is the highlight of an Air Force lodging manager's career."

Ian Thompson can be reached at it

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