Air Force officials had plenty of reasons to be happy during last month’s ribbon-cutting for a resort hotel at Fort Walton Beach built on property owned by Eglin AFB.
The 152-room Holiday Inn Destin West Resort on the Florida Panhandle, developed by Emerald Breeze Resort Group through an enhanced use lease (EUL), will provide the installation with an added revenue stream to fund infrastructure upgrades and repairs. The EUL program has helped make up for a significant shortfall in Eglin’s budget for facility repairs and upgrades, providing almost $30 million through in-kind payments from existing projects, reports Air Force Civil Engineer Center Public Affairs.
The developer is leasing 17 acres of beachfront property from Eglin; the site is separated from the installation.
At the same time, the hotel is providing a rooftop setting for antennas used by the 96th Test Wing to perform telemetry operations. The equipment, housed in a large faux beach ball, used to sit at ground level.
“A good project generates money for the host base,” said EUL asset manager Kathy Bustos. “But an exceptional project generates revenue and enhances the mission.”
The successful project was six years in the making and required a proactive approach on the part of the Air Force, according to Eglin’s commanding general.
“You have to make it happen; these things don’t just happen by themselves,” said Brig. Gen. David Harris.
“You have to sit down and partner with business and community leaders, find out where the resources that the government has can be applied to a business need, and those benefits applied to the military mission and the local military workforce,” Harris said.