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Plans underway for military USO Lounge at new SLC Airport

SALT LAKE CITY — It’s not a tram or more restaurants, but a lot of people, especially those involved with the military, are going to be excited about something new coming to Salt Lake City International Airport.

For all that’s been said about the new airport, Bob Kurkjian couldn’t believe how much room there is.

“I have visited here two or three times,” he said. “It is spectacular.”

Since Kurkjian is a regional president for the USO (United Services Organization), it got him thinking about maybe having a USO lounge inside the new airport.

“A USO airport lounge is really the same as a civilian airport lounge, just specialized for the military,” said Kurkjian.

That means free food and drinks, just like any airport lounge, but a USO airport lounge includes volunteers and veterans for military members to talk to.

“Maybe you’ve just come back from a hardship zone or a conflict zone, or you haven’t seen your family for a while. It just layers on top of the anxiety that might come just traveling in general, and we’re there to really try to help them with that,” said Kurkjian.

There are 40 airport USO’s in the United States, but this is a first for Salt Lake City.

Airport director Bill Wyatt said with all the military bases in Utah, 30,000-plus military members, and those connecting in Salt Lake, it made sense to have one.

“There was no room, really, in the old airport. It was too small. Here we are building a brand new facility — having a USO is just a great asset,” said Wyatt.

With everything going on in Afghanistan, Kurkjian said having more places for veterans to go is important.

He shared the story of a veteran who recently got some help at a USO.

“He was in the airport in Las Vegas watching the TV when it was reported that Kandahar had fallen to the Taliban,” said Kurkjian. “He had served there for a year and clearly had some very visceral responses. He wasn’t in a good place. He went to the USO there and they made him feel really special and took some of that weight off of him.”

Kurkjian is meeting with the Salt Lake City Council Tuesday evening.

The City Council has to give final approval for the USO to officially be welcomed at the airport.

The negotiated lease between the airport and the USO is $1 a year.

“I joke that I like to pay my lease up front,” said Kurkjian with a smile.

The USO said the next step in coming to the Salt Lake City airport is to find volunteers.

If you’d be interested in becoming one, click here.

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