Largest lodging facility in Army opens for business at Fort Lee
By Sarah Steele Wilson, Newsroom Editor
Jan 30, 2013, 12:42
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson The average length of stay for hotel guests in nine days, but some stay for as long as three months.
While two soldiers sat talking on a sleek green sofa near the fire place, a steady stream of other men and women in uniform, toting grocery bags, dry cleaning and backpacks walked through the lobby of the newly opened lodging facility at Fort Lee.
The 1,000 room hotel, the largest lodging facility in the United States Army, was completed in Sept., 2012 and opened for guests on Dec. 20, 2012. It is currently about 68 percent full.
The $86.3 million hotel is expected to cut lodging costs for the Army and create a campus-like atmosphere for students staying at Fort Lee temporarily while attending classes at the Army Logistics University.
“It’s convenient to the guest, convenient to the soldier student, but obviously, lower cost to the Army and to the American taxpayer,” said Marc Jannsen, the facility’s general manager.
Built in the shape of a large letter “H,” the 504,000 square foot hotel features 900 extended stay rooms, 100 family suites and study rooms.
“This is not a resort, and a lot of the other places are, or have that resort atmosphere,” said Garrison Commander, Col. Rodney Edge. “This is a study atmosphere. We want everyone to be comfortable and that’s what the key is here.”
Although creating a campus-like atmosphere was one of the stated goals of building the lodging facility next to the ALU, the Army may have overshot the mark.
“It’s a lot nicer than living in a fraternity house or a dorm room,” said 2nd Lt. William Metro, who has been staying there for three weeks.
Metro and other guests agreed that the close proximity to the ALU and other sites on post is an advantage of the facility.
“I can walk to ALU and then the battlefield’s right across the street, where I can go run, do some trails and stuff,” said 2nd Lt. Daniel MacDonald. “That’s definitely nice.”
“It’s pretty convenient, all the way around, for me,” added Sgt. Ebony Penton.
The kitchenettes included in each room, fully stocked with dishes, pots, pans and flatware, have also proved popular with students.
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson Soldiers socializing in the lobby of the Fort Lee Lodge, which includes a fireplace.
“It’s nice having the stove tops to be able to cook my own food, because I prefer to do that,” said MacDonald. “That’s lot nicer.”
The average length of stay for guests at the lodge is nine and a half days, although ALU class lengths vary from less than a week to three months.
Last year, Fort Lee reinstated a policy, first suspended in Aug. 2009, requiring students to stay in on-post housing when possible and in approved hotels in the community when on-post housing is full. Now that the construction of the lodge is complete, there are 1,500 rooms on post to accommodate more of the ALU’s average daily load of 2,300 students.
The rooms in the hotel are adorned with locally themed artwork, bringing something of the surrounding area inside the facility.
“It’s called the Fort Lee Lodge and we want to make sure they get a little bit of the history of the area,” Janssen said.
The rooms open onto long hallways, which amount to over two miles in length, according to Edge, are “not based off of Stephen King’s book ‘The Shining.’”
The facility is also decked out with environmentally friendly, high efficiency utilities that Janssen said result in approximately $185,000 in savings each month.
Jannsen said that plans are underway to develop space in the building into a restaurant, which should open during the summer.
When the Army first announced plans to construct the lodge in 2009, controversy erupted as local lodging facilities that chose to locate in the area after the 2005 decision to expand the post through the Base Realignment and Closure process was announced feared they would see a drop in business.
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson A view of the lobby at the newly opened lodge.
Even with the 1,000 new on-post rooms in the facility, the post cannot accommodate all students without sending some to community establishments.
Edge said there are no plans to add to the facility in the future.