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New Soundside Club the “gem of the Emerald Coast”
The new Soundside Club at Hurlburt Field opened its doors for business Jan. 2. The ballrooms include layered ceilings and lighter colored carpets and walls than the original club's. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jason Epley)
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New Soundside Club the "gem of the Emerald Coast"

Posted 1/8/2010   Updated 1/11/2010 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Joe McFadden
1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

1/8/2010 - HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- After years of planning and months of construction, the new Soundside Club at Hurlburt Field opened its doors for business Jan. 2.

The new, modern facility boasts more than 20,000 square-feet of space for functions like weddings, reunions and meetings for Airmen and their families.

"We found the capacity of the original club was not large enough for the types of functions we wanted to hold here," said Keith Cutshaw, 1st Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron programs flight chief.

Mr. Cutshaw said that normally military construction projects in excess of $750,000 are handled by the Army Corps of Engineers. Yet after contractors told the Air Force Center for Engineering and Environment they could not complete the project for the original budget, the 1st SOCES offered to handle it from Hurlburt Field.

"It's unusual for a project like this to be headed at the base-level," he said.

The $7 million construction of the club was directed through the combined efforts of the base engineering, contracting and services teams and construction companies in Florida.

"This was a Herculean effort, and we overcame challenges to make sure this was done locally, and in a fair and equitable process," said Lt. Col. Shawn Moore, 1st SOCES commander. "The new facility is the gem of the Emerald Coast."

Susan Hilyard, Soundside Club manager for the last three years, said the transition from the original club to the new one was a worthwhile process.

"Over the last 10 years, the entire development process changed three times. It's been a struggling, slow birth, but it's brought about what we have now," she said.

One of the changes is the teal-green roof that sets it apart from the brown roofs on the main base.

"We went with a different color scheme that is consistent with the beach theme, and it's very nice," Colonel Moore said.

As patrons walk into the club, they will pass by a portrait of 1st Lt. Donald Hurlburt, the base's namesake.

"We also made preserving the history of the original club a priority," Mrs. Hilyard said, pointing out the pictures and memorabilia salvaged from the old club's rooms dedicated to Hap Arnold and Bob Hope.

The main feature of the new club is the three improved ballrooms that can be converted into one grand ballroom. The layered ceilings add more depth to each ballroom, while the lighter colors of the carpet and walls brighten the atmosphere. Mrs. Hilyard said that patrons of the original club were accustomed to the shorter ceilings and low-level lighting in the ballrooms.

"Once all the ballroom doors are opened, you can see the water from every seat. It truly captures the sound," Colonel Moore said.

The ballrooms and meetings rooms are also equipped with state-of-the-art ceiling-mounted projectors and slide screens for any conference.

The newly-designed kitchen includes more space for preparation areas, ovens, sinks and dishwashers. Mrs. Hilyard dubbed it an infinity kitchen because the process line from when the order is prepared to when the dished are cleaned has no interruption.

The cooking area also includes refrigerators with built-in serving trays. These trays can be stored until chilled plates like salads or desserts are needed.

"I've been in this business for more than 25 years, and this is the most well thought-out kitchen I have ever seen," she said.

Despite its large size, the new club has more energy-efficient features than the original club. It uses lights that automatically turn off when no one is in the room and uses only four types of light bulbs as opposed to 10 types at the original club.

Since the facility resumed business with a wedding Jan. 2, Mrs. Hilyard said events for the club have been booking quickly.

"We hope to be able to serve everyone in the future as their club of choice. If you have a need, we're here for you," she said.

The project plans also include the demolition of the original club in mid-January, followed by the opening of the new visitor's quarters in February. 

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