No Plans For USO Lounge At New Salt Lake City International Airport
Jan 9, 2020, 5:25 PM | Updated: 9:28 pm
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Walking through the halls lined with yellow lockers, Alvin Chung and Chase Chesley remember a lot about their Taylorsville High School days.
Especially the display with the American flag.
“That World War II helmet right there,” said Chung while pointed to the helmet in the glass case.
They were both Junior ROTC members and love everything the military represents.
“When it comes down to it, we’re all part of the United States of America on the same soil, so we all have ties to the military,” said Chesley.
They have done a lot with the Junior ROTC.
But there is one project they started in high school they wished they could have completed.
“If we can gather enough community support to show the USO we want them here, they might reconsider,” said Chung.
Currently at Salt Lake City International Airport, there isn’t a USO (United Service Organization) Lounge.
There are also no plans for one at the new airport.
Similar to a Delta Sky Club, it’s a lounge for active and reserve military members, and their families, to relax.
Especially before and after deployments.
“It’s run by volunteers and its just a place where military members can go and talk to someone who understands their struggles and concerns,” said Chung.
Chung and Chesley started an online petition to get one three years ago, but it never happened.
“They did say they would look into it,” said Chung.
They’re not alone in hoping a USO would come to Salt Lake City International.
Through the years, Salt Lake has received several emails from people asking about a USO lounge.
“With the new expansion project will we be finally getting a USO? It would be nice for those stationed here in beautiful Utah,” said one emailer.
“I’m military coming today, and I have to wait seven hours for the rest of my unit to get here, and you don’t have a USO,” said another person who wrote to the airport.
“I was just curious if there is going to be a USO in the new portion of the airport?” asked one emailer.
According to Salt Lake City Airport spokeswoman Nancy Volmer, the USO, which is a non-profit organization, asked Salt Lake City about it.
“There are costs associated with having a presence at the airport, and so apparently, from what they told us, they were not aware of that and they weren’t able to pay for or lease a space at the airport,” said Volmer. “We’re not able to give that space away. We have some pretty strict guidelines from the FAA about diversions of funds, and so it’s not anything that we can provide someone at no cost.”
In an email, USO’s Vice President of Communications Gayle Fishel said “99% of our airport locations are rent-free.”
Currently, USO Lounges are located at more than 40 airports in the country.
Volmer said if the USO would like a space at the new Salt Lake City airport, the administration would be happy to talk to them.
However, in another email, Fishel said, “It is highly unlikely the USO would open a center in that airport based on competing highly populated bases and very remote base needs elsewhere.”
“Honestly, I do not agree with that and I hope they would reconsider,” said Chung.
Chung says, with Hill Air Force Base, Camp Williams, Dugway Proving Ground, and National Guard bases, there are plenty of military members in Utah.
He’s still hoping a USO will come here for those military members.
“We feel like that would be very important with so many members traveling through Salt Lake City airport,” said Chung.