A landmark structure on the southeastern entrance to Bandera for the last 21 years is getting a new name now that the Bandera Lodge has been sold to Warriors Heart to help it expand its rehabilitation services to military personnel, veterans and members of emergency response organizations.
Bandera-based Warriors Heart issued a press release on Thursday, Oct. 1, announcing it had acquired the 44- room lodge in the 700 block of Highway 16 South as part of an expansion.
Niranjan K. Bhakta, who has owned the lodge with his wife for the last 21 years, said that same day that the hotel with its restaurant and bar had been sold to Warriors Heart and was officially closed.
“It was the best thing that happened to me,” said Bhakta about the sale, which was announced without a sale price. “I was not looking to sell, but they (Warriors Heart) came and gave me a deal I could not refuse.”
He said at the age of 68, it was time for him to retire and to enjoy life with his grandkids.
The news release from Warriors Heart said its new property will be called the Warriors Heart Lodge and will be used primarily for Sober Living, intensive outpatient and brain treatment therapy for the warrior group it provides longterm recovery services to.
“We are grateful for this expansion that will allow us to continue to heal more warriors and support the Bandera, Texas community by attracting more business and creating more jobs as the second-largest employer in our area,” said Lisa Lannon, a Warriors Heart co-founder. “Our Warriors Heart team is dedicated to being there when our warriors need us most, just as they were always there when we needed them.
“This move will also provide the other hotels in the city and county more business as the Warriors Heart Lodge will be for private use.”
Warriors Heart relocated to a 543-acre tract just outside of Bandera in April 2016, creating what it called the nation’s first private addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder treatment center for military members, veterans and those in first responder and emergency units.
The news release said after serving more than 1,100 warriors in the program since then, “the results have been inspiring and life changing.”
Officials offered testimonials from those they have served showing the impact that Warriors Heart had on their lives. One U.S. Coast Guard member said, “Warriors Heart made me want to live again.”
With suicide rates in the military already higher than the rate for the general population, those rates growing this year by an estimated 20 percent and additional pressures being exerted on first responders during the coronavirus pandemic, Warriors Heart officials said they felt it was necessary to expand its “Strength through Healing” outreach.
“Based on the growing need for substance abuse and mental health services, Warriors Heart believes the new Warriors Heart Lodge will make a significant difference in the lives of our nation’s frontline protectors, their loved ones and local business,” center officials said.
Warriors Heart provides a 42-day, residential treatment program to warriors currently at the site of old Purple Sage Ranch corporate retreat center it occupies, along with detox, inpatient, intensive outpatient, telehealth outpatient and Sober Living services.
Officials said those services will grow at the lodge.
They also challenged anyone who would characterize the operation as a halfway house that might bring a criminal element to the neighborhood.
“We treat people with a disability. Our clients are some of the finest men and women who serve our country and community. They are a protected class and are not criminals,” said Josh Lannon, Lisa Lannon’s husband and the center’s CEO. “We are serving those who served us.”
He said the lodge’s Sober Living program offers a place to live in a structured community “where everyone agrees that drugs and alcohol are not permitted on the property.”
“It’s a safe place to live,” said Josh Lannon. “In a world where we are surrounded with ways to self-medicate, it’s nice to have a place where our warriors can feel safe.”
Bandera Councilman Jerry Russe who owns a recreational vehicle park adjacent to the lodge said he has seen how Warriors Heart functions and how it screens its patients and has no concerns about the hotel being converted into an expanded treatment center.
“They know what they are doing,” said Russe. “I’ve got a really good feeling about it.”
Mayor Suzanne Schauman said the property where the hotel is zoned allows for a very broad mix of uses that is likely to include the type of rehabilitation services provided by Warriors Heart.
She said Warriors Heart officials had been in contact with officials about code issues associated with the property, but she was not sure what the status of the city’s review was.