Army improving Korea Area I base bars so soldiers will party on post
January 29, 2005
CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — The Army is hoping $1 million in improvements to base bars in Area I will encourage more soldiers to party on-post rather than go to South Korean bars.
Camp Red Cloud garrison commander Lt. Col. William Huber said he is overseeing projects that include a $370,000 face lift for the Mitchell’s club at the camp and about $200,000 in upgrades to the Tommy’s club, inside Reggie’s at Camp Stanley. Another Mitchell’s renovation, involving spending several hundred thousand dollars to build a second-story Irish bar, is slated for later this year, he said.
Camp Casey garrison commander Lt. Col. Stephen Murray said a six-figure renovation of the Gateway Club, inside Primo’s at Camp Casey, has been approved for later this year.
In an interview with Stars and Stripes in November, U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. Leon J. LaPorte said offering alternatives to drinking off-post was among USFK’s ongoing efforts to lure servicemembers away from activities and areas that support prostitution and human trafficking.
Huber said, “We cannot compete with the Ville [Tongdu- cheon’s red-light district] as far as being a nightclub and providing a male-female social environment. I’m never going to get 50 percent of the patrons in here [at Mitchell’s] to be women. I think the division is at 17 percent [females].
“But I can provide an entertainment facility that makes the soldier want to come back and be here and participate and support a place that is very similar to America,” said Huber, who came up with the idea of turning Mitchell’s into a sports bar.
“I thought: ‘What can we do to draw the attention of the soldiers back here that the Ville cannot do?’ The sports bar is where it’s at. Technology and state-of-the- art entertainment is where it’s at,” he said.
Mitchell’s, in its current guise, was the most popular restaurant on the Peninsula, Huber said, but still was a “sterile” facility, “not the kind of place where you want to hang out.”
“We wanted this to be a start of a world-class, highly technological entertainment facility, but we knew we were up against an elephant,” he said. “People said: ‘You can’t do that and still be the No. 1 restaurant on the Peninsula.’ People said: ‘A sports bar is not an exciting thing.’ But right now in the States, the sports bar model is one of the most successful in the restaurant/nightclub industry.”
Surveys of 2nd Brigade Combat Team soldiers who left for Iraq in August, and of 350 soldiers serving in South Korea since then, showed a sports bar was exactly what the troops wanted, he said.
Once funding was approved for the Mitchell’s project, the Army hired Celebrity Entertainment Systems, a company that does nightclub design worldwide for Department of Defense and civilian nightclubs, to help with the redesign.
Mitchell’s manager Chris Bradford said the club plans to increase seating from 120 to 150, including 10 booths, each with its own 20-inch plasma screen television for viewing sports events.
The club, which now has just five televisions and two cable boxes, also is to install six 42-inch plasma televisions, four projectors and 12 flat-panel televisions with the ability to screen up to six different channels simultaneously in various parts of the club, he said.
On weekends the club will use a portable dance floor, stage or DJ booth, he said.
The single pool table now in the club is to be joined by two more, along with dartboards and sports-themed video games such as “Golden T Golf,” which arrived this week, he said.
Plans also call for installing the Apollo music video system, which includes 5,000 music videos on a hard drive. The system automatically updates the videos with the latest music available online. The system cost several thousand dollars, Bradford said — about the same price as the old system, which featured a DJ booth and a collection of compact discs.
The club also will get a new lighting system and a pan-and-tilt camera that can display images of entertainers or patrons on screens in the club, he said.
A new dance floor and LED lighting will give everything inside the club a reddish tinge, he said, adding that staff recently discovered and repaired a fiber- optic colored lighting system inside the club.
For decor, wall pictures of classic American movie stars are to be replaced with other memorabilia, he said.
So far, Mitchell’s has obtained the guitar that country singer Darryl Worley used to compose the song “Have You Forgotten,” a 25-year-old Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders jacket from the group’s first tour to South Korea, a platinum-selling album signed by the country band The Bellamy Brothers, country legend Charlie Daniels’ fiddle bow, Dave “The Ginger Wizard” Pearson’s pool cues and a Baltimore Ravens football uniform, Bradford said.
The Mitchell’s project is to be completed by late March or early April, Huber said.
Gateway Club renovations still are in the design phase; no contract has been awarded, Murray said.
“In general, the design concept is a multi-functional club. We don’t want to go with one theme, such as a sports bar, because we want the club to support different types of acts,” he said.