FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- There may be a small amount of pain for community members wanting to use the Fort Rucker Physical Fitness Facility this year, but as renovations at the facility continue there will be a huge amount of gain next year.

The facility is undergoing millions of dollars in renovations, equating to a complete overhaul of the entire facility, said Lori Ciranni, manager of sports, fitness and aquatics for Fort Rucker's Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation.

The renovations have been going on for just over a year now and the 34-year-old building was in dire need of the fix-up, Ciranni said.

"If we didn't get the renovations, we were going to have to level it and start over - especially the locker room area and the pool," she said. "It was so rusty and nasty from all of the use and humidity, the renovations just had to happen or we'd have to close it down."

While most of the facility is closed right now due to the ongoing work, the gains include a new pool, new locker rooms, air conditioning and heating in the gymnasium, more space for fitness equipment and free weights, new racquetball courts and an in-house hourly childcare facility run by the Child Development Center to take care of little ones while parents work out, Ciranni said.

"That's a new feature and it's going to be huge," she said. "It'd been tried before, but wasn't widely used because it wasn't on site - being on site will make a huge difference."

Ciranni estimates that the whole project will be complete next spring or summer - originally it was due to be complete in April 2011.

"It's an old building, and you just never know when they pick up a stone or piece of cement what they'll find under it," she said. "Some of the work takes longer than expected because of what they find. We're still shooting for April, though."

For now, the only parts of the facility people without hardhats can use are the fitness area and lobby restrooms, she said. Workouts in the fitness area are close quarters due to the free weights recently being moved back into the fitness area from the gymnasium.

"Having the free weights in the gym was a temporary measure to create more room in the fitness area," she said. "But since they've started work in the gym, we had to move the weights back, so it's a little more cramped."

The other issue created by the renovations is the loss of racquetball on post.

"Racquetball is a huge issue with our customers," Ciranni said. "The courts are done, and they're beautiful and ready to go, but the problem is people can't access the courts because of all the work going on around them. It's a safety issue - it's simply not safe for people to get to the courts right now."

She said the staff and construction contractors are working to create a workaround for access to the courts.

And there's hope, because the facility staff is experienced at making workarounds, she said.

"We have shower and locker room trailers to make up for the loss of the locker rooms-people using the track can use those, too, and we made adjustments to allow for continuing with basketball and volleyball seasons," she said. "And, of course, we have the Fortenberry-Colton Physical Fitness Center people can use.

"The people who've been here a while know how much these renovations were needed," Ciranni said. "And to new people, I'd just say use the Fortenberry-Colton facility-there's absolutely no construction going on there.

"Keep your chin up and realize that you are going to be wowed once these renovations are complete," she added. "It's going to be beautiful - people will feel invigorated when they walk in, and I'm certain Soldiers and all of our patrons are going to feel great about working out here."

Page last updated Thu November 18th, 2010 at 15:48