This is part one of a three-part series on the Hap Arnold Club renovation project.
The Hap Arnold Club has an appointment for a total makeover. Team March members, which include Reserve, Guard, active duty, family members and retirees are in store for a new experience, charged with great entertainment, unbeatable membership deals and an environment that fosters good times for all.
“It is my goal to bring the Haps back to the Hap Arnold Club,” said Iris Alexander, deputy director, 452nd Force Support Squadron. “My primary responsibility is to manage the Non Appropriated Funds operations here at March Field, and I intend to accomplish this by improving and enhancing activities for our Team March members.”
The first order of business was to restore the once-famed, Hap Arnold Consolidated Club. It, along with other for-profit businesses, suffered from decreased patronage after 9/11 and the economic downturn in 2008. High mission tempos, coupled with strained budgets, kept members on the road and forced them to seek other forms of entertainment that did not require as much outside spending.
“In order to bring the crowds back, we need to start from the ground floor and work our way up,” said Alexander. “If people are going to spend their hard-earned money here, we have to make it worth their while. Our target group is comprised of March officers, enlisted, family members and retirees.”
Alexander’s agenda will begin with a thorough cleaning from top to bottom and touch up painting where needed. Proceeds from the 2012 Air Fest will be used to purchase new furniture, accessories and other necessities required for the rejuvenation project. New management was brought in to add a fresh perspective on how to bring the crowds back to the levels the club once hosted.
Michael Gaines, a 13-year veteran, military club manager, was hired by Alexander because of his accredited past. He stood out among average club managers through his reputation as someone with the know-how to make a club run well. He was once lauded for his work done at the U.S. consulate in Japan.
“Ms. Alexander and I share the same vision,” said Gaines. “We want to resurrect Hap Arnold at the club so that members know his history and accomplishments and the contributions he gave to the March Field community.”
Gen. Hap Arnold was the first Air Force five-star general, a base commander here at March Field and he trained with Wilbur and Orville Wright, said Alexander. The club has many photos of Arnold and even one with Amelia Earhart, she said.
The club will feature a Spanish motif, much like the Mission Inn on University Avenue in Riverside, Calif. The main foyer will display nostalgic photos of Arnold and a shadow box commemorating his service will be majestically positioned in the second part of the alcove. In addition to the eye-pleasing updates, we have also initiated various green initiatives that allow us to consume less energy in an environmentally safe manner, Alexander said.
“To go along with the external improvements, we are putting our people through food and service training,” said Alexander. “We’ve hired professionals to train our staff on proper customer service etiquette. They learned so much about teamwork, serving and greeting guests.”
Gaines explained how his 13 years in the club business, serving the military, has given him the upper hand when it comes to providing entertainment.
“My contacts with professional entertainers give me added leverage,” said Gaines. “I have a personal list of contacts that include comedians like Eric Blake, Alonzo Bodden, Manny Maldonado and Daniel Dugar,” he said. “Also, my contacts have contacts with famous entertainers such as Sinbad and D.L. Hughely and various UFC fighters, all of whom fully support the military.”
Members of the Hap Arnold Club can expect the return of the soul food buffet, jazz brunches, dinner theaters and dance parties, said Gaines. In the near future, the club intends on hosting a Halloween party and New Years Eve bash. If demand is up, the club will consider offering package deals that include lodging at discounted rates, he said.
Alexander also expressed interest in broadening their reach by making the facilities available for business conferences, weddings and distinguished visitor receptions.
“Look forward to upcoming events because we are going to make it happen!” said Gaines.
The Beacon will follow this article with two more to track the rebirth of the Hap Arnold Club. Expect the next article to have updates on the progress and plans for the grand opening.
Shown is the ballroom of the Hap Arnold Consolidated Club that will receive a new look during the renovation project. The floor suffered rain damage during a recent monsoon that swept through March Field earlier this month. (U.S. Air Force photo / Darnell Gardner)