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Executive board members and members of the advisory committee begin the groundbreaking process for the new USO Tampa Bay. (Courtesy: Kendra Cummings)
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Work Begins on New USO Center at Tampa International Airport

Friday, March 16, 2012

By Christian Pelusi

Ground has been broken at Tampa International Airport for a new USO center that could serve approximately 300,000 active duty service members and their families who travel through the area each year.

The USO Tampa Bay project is a part of ongoing renovations at Tampa International Airport as they prepare for the Republican National Convention later this year and planners are targeting this summer to open for business.

"The groundbreaking for this new facility brings us one step closer to having a world class facility in our community to properly service our military and their families while moving through the Tampa International Airport," said Walter Lamerton, Chair of the USO Tampa Bay, Inc. Board of Directors.

Joe Lopano, CEO of Tampa International Airport, said he is delighted to include the USO lounge as an element of the airport renovations.

"The military is a significant part of the Tampa Community, with MacDill Air Force Base located here," Lopano said. "All servicemen and women need to be recognized as the heroes that they are. A USO at our airport helps provide that recognition."

For Representative and USO Congressional Caucus member C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.), the USO center is another way to show our country's support and appreciation.

"This is the least we can do to show our support and thank our troops as they travel to and from the Tampa Bay area," Young told Aviation "With MacDill Air Force base and the joint commands in our area, as well as the large [National] Guard and Reserve presence in our area, thousands of service members transit through the airport every day and they deserve a place to relax and to provide assistance when necessary."

Airport spokesperson Janet Zink told the Fox affiliate in Tampa Bay's website said the benefits of a USO center are obvious to any observer.

"This was really important to us," Zink said. "Anybody who spends any time at the airport can see the happy reunions of the servicemen and women reunited with their families after active duty and sad departures. And MacDill Air Force Base is here. The military is a really important part of our community and we wanted to do something to honor all our servicemen and women as the heroes they are."

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