For the first time in the organization's more than 70-year history, John Wayne Airport will be home to a United Service Organization center, officials announced this week.
USO centers act as welcoming facilities for returning troops, where military members can hang out with their families, watching movies, eating, using Wi-Fi or getting travel assistance.
The Orange County Board of Supervisors approved a five-year lease with the USO of Greater Los Angeles in a unanimous vote late last month, paving the way for the center, which will be in Terminal B, near the baggage claim area. Rent was set at $1 per year.
Irvine-based firm Snyder Langston has signed on to design and build the center as an in-kind donation, according to a news release.
"Our armed service members work tirelessly to safeguard our freedom and our security," said Board of Supervisors Chairman Shawn Nelson in a statement. "We are proud of their service and delighted to work with the Bob Hope USO to provide a comfortable and welcoming environment at JWA for traveling service members and their families."
Officials at Bob Hope USO, which manages centers in the greater Southern California area, estimated that about 20,000 military members traveling on orders pass through JWA over the course of a year.
Bob Hope USO already runs facilities at Los Angeles International Airport, Ontario International Airport and Palm Springs Airport. It is one of the largest regional USO operations in the country, serving more than 130,000 military members and their families annually.
"We are thrilled that we can now make their travels a little better, whether it's by helping a soldier about to deploy or one who's far from home and just looking for some support and comfort," said Bob Kurkjian, executive director of Bob Hope USO, in a statement.
Kurkjian added that all services are free for visitors, and centers are staffed largely by volunteers.
Supervisor John Moorlach said in a statement that he looks forward to a "long relationship" with the USO at JWA.
"Orange County has a very strong commitment to those who serve in the military," he said.