Navy unveils plans for a 50-room lodge

$5.5 million building designed to house sailors being reassigned

  • Wednesday, December 1, 1999 9:00am
  • News

“By April, construction should start on a 50-room, $5.5 million Navy Lodge on Whidbey Island Naval Air Station’s Seaplane Base.The two-story Navy motel, scheduled to take about a year to build, will be located on a clearing beside Coral Sea Avenue, about a quarter-mile south of the Navy Exchange. When completed, it will replace 23 trailers on the Seaplane Base that the Navy currently uses to house a steady stream of transient sailors, their families and retirees, said Bob Bishop, general manager of the Navy Exchange.Bishop said the new lodge will also more than double the number of rooms NAS Whidbey currently has to accommodate a relatively large Navy community.Typically, Bishop said, many more sailors and dependents come to Whidbey on Permanent Change of Station, or PCS, orders than the base could ever handle. “On average, we’ve been turning away 257 persons per month,” Bishop said, citing a 1997 study. “They’ve been referred out to other lodging facilities, possibly out in town, possibly out to the Navy Lodge in Everett.“The new lodge helps us solidify the positive impression sailors have of NAS Whidbey and helps improve the base’s posture,” Bishop said.But not everyone agrees.Joel Douglas, owner of Oak Harbor’s Coachman Inn, said the new Navy Lodge will drain Navy business that the city’s hotels can use, and will have a distinct price advantage because, as a federal entity, the lodge won’t have to tack taxes onto room bills.“It’s like anything else, it’s fine and wonderful for the sailors and retirees,” Douglas said. “But is it fair we should have to collect a 10-percent tax and face the competition of a non-taxing entity?”“We’ve got a tax raise, a B &0 tax raise, pay property tax and every other tax known to man, we pay them all and unfortunately, the Navy Lodge isn’t required to pay one cent of tax,” Douglas said.The savings are passed on to sailors and their families, Bishop said. And, since every room will be equipped with a kitchenette, they’ll be able to save on food as well.“It really provides them a great benefit,” he said. “The Navy Lodge saves families about 20 percent on average. It saves them on taxes and saves them on food.”Rooms at the Navy Lodge will cost $52 per night.Douglas said rooms at the Coachman start at about $60 per night.About 60 rooms in the Coachman also include kitchenettes, but Douglas said if he had known the Navy was going to build a new lodge, there might not have been so many of them.A few years ago, the Coachman completed a 28-room addition. Douglas said it was built with the Navy in mind, as sailors make up a significant portion of the Coachman’s trade.Bishop said he doubted the addition of the Navy Lodge would undercut Oak Harbor’s hotel business too much, partly because most of the sailors and families on PCS orders travel during the summer when the availability of local rooms can be scarce.Besides, Bishop added, the Lodge will be used predominantly by Navy families who are relocating here for the long term.“Inevitably, the dollars they’re saving will find their way into the community,” Bishop said. “Whether in rent, buying a home, a car, at restaurants or purchases at other places in town. In addition, the lodge will create six new jobs in the community.”Other than rooms with kitchenettes and a laundry, the Navy Lodge will offer few amenities.Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce Chairman Tony Steadman said he doubts the lodge will hurt the lodging economy.“I don’t think so,” Steadman said. “I think the people that come to town that are housed in the Navy housing are young enlisted probably more so than anyone else and chances are there aren’t that many rooms in Oak Harbor in the price range that they’d be able to pay.””

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