National Guard could call Zephyrhills home

State looking to build $25 million Armory on Municipal Golf Course property

The State budget looks to favor Zephyrhills this year with $25 million atop of the list for a Florida National Guard Armory to be built in the area of the Zephyrhills Municipal Airport.

The prime piece of property being considered for the armory is the current home of the Zephyrhills Municipal Golf Course. The 18-hole, par 68 course was established in 1957. The property is leased by Under Par Inc. and the lease for the property is set to expire in April of 2022.

The Florida National Guard Armory in Zephyrhills is a vision State Senator Danny Burgess had several years ago when he was a young member of the Florida House of Representatives. That vision is becoming a reality thanks to the support of Senate President Wilton Simpson along with the State Representative Randy Maggard.

Burgess said the National Guard is in need to expand and the COVID-19 pandemic response exposed that need.

“In relation to other states, we pale in comparison to our sister states who have nowhere near the level of population and the emergencies we have,” said Burgess, a US Army Reservist. “Florida’s National Guard is in desperate need of growing. Our guard has been mobilized since last year in COVID relief from testing to vaccinations. Factor in hurricanes, mobilizations across the country and overseas deployment, our guard is all hands on deck.”

During Monday’s meeting of the Zephyrhills City Council, the lease agreement for the golf course was up for renewal, but council has tabled the action until they receive more information about the possibility of the armory coming to Zephyrhills and specifically, the interest in the golf course property.

“We do have a little time. We could wait a couple of months on this,” said Councilman Ken Burgess.

City Manager Billy Poe said there are other property options on the east side of the airport in the industrial park within the city limits. There are also other plots of land along Chancey Road that are not owned by the city.

“Zephyrhills, with such rich military history, we recognize the need to bring this to Zephyrhills,” Burgess said. “We all want to see this happen and with the leadership of Senator Simpson, we secured $25 million in the budget to ensure the next National Guard Armory goes into Zephyrhills, FL.”

The $25 million in the budget is considered safe from Governor Ron DeSantis’ veto pen considering the governor is a veteran and Burgess served as his director of the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs.

As with most military installations, the economic impact to the communities is tremendous with businesses throughout the community benefitting from the hundreds of National Guard personnel that will spend time at the facility as well as the dozens of full-time personnel who will be working at the armory.

Burgess reported that the National Guard is looking to relocate at Brigade Headquarters to the Zephyrhills Armory when the construction is complete. As a Brigade Headquarters, 40-full-time Army soldiers will be at the facility plus a large contingency of regular weekend reservists three weekends a month.

“These are people working in Zephyrhills and spending money in Zephyrhills,” Burgess said. “How much prouder can we be as a military town to have Florida’s best, brightest and bravest here at home. The presence will be unbelievable. The opportunities for the city will be unbelievable.”

“Imagine 50 soldiers figuring out where to go to lunch. They are spending money. Some might be staying at hotels. They are going to be at the brewery. They are going to be throwing hatchets. They are going to spend their money here. It’s going to be veterans. It’s going to be hard-charging All-American people. It’s a bit of our history living on. We were a World War II installation back in the day. We have that history there. Look what we can have now with this. We are going to make it happen.”

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