Burger King, bowling among the fruits of Lajes Field's Air Force award
Lajes Field, selected as the Air Force’s top base last year, is using part of its award money to give airmen just what they ordered: Burger King.
The island installation in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean will soon have its own “Home of the Whopper.”
A fast-food joint might not be a big deal at some U.S. bases in Europe — where you can find American franchise favorites such as TGI Friday’s and Taco Bell — but it is huge news to the roughly 2,500 Americans who live or work at the installation.
It is a wish come true for airmen.
Sr. Airman Saundra Nida is excited about finally being able to bite into a Whopper Jr.
“I think it’s great,” she said. “I can’t wait to get some fast food.”
The base will overhaul the bowling alley and build a mini Burger King inside with a portion of the $1 million received for winning the 2002 Commander in Chief’s Installation Excellence Award, an honor that goes to the Air Force’s top base.
The winnings are to be used for quality-of-life programs.
In surveys last year, Americans who were asked what to do with the award money overwhelmingly voted for a Burger King.
Subway is the only American fast-food chain at Lajes, a support base located in the Portuguese Azores.
“There’s nothing here,” Airman 1st Class Raul Sauceda said. “There’s no McDonald’s. No Jack-In-the-Box. Nothing.”
Many U.S. bases in Europe have food courts with a number of American fast-food choices on and off post.
Bases in Bosnia and in Saudi Arabia even have Burger King franchises.
Although Terceira Island has some great eateries that offer local cuisine, airman must get on a plane to satisfy their American fast-food fix.
Burger King is a favorite among Americans on base and topped the survey list partly because of what is known on base as “Whopper Weekend.”
Each year, Burger King comes to the base and serves its famous flame-broiled burgers.
It is a huge event that attracts nearly everyone. Last August, more than 2,500 burgers were dished out in 16 hours. That’s one Whopper for every American who works or lives on base.
By the end of November, Americans at Lajes won’t have to wait a whole year to indulge.
The renovation of the 16-lane bowling alley and the construction of the Burger King — begun in December and scheduled for completion before the end of the year — will cost an estimated $848,000. Of that, $661,000 will come from the base’s host tenant, the 65th Air Base Wing, said Air Force Capt. Jonathan Linquist, the project manager. That money is part of the base’s $1 million award.
Maj. Tracy Witcher, commander of the 65th Services Squadron, said the Burger King will be a top draw, adding that it will be “a little taste of home.”