• Rec. Center Director Bill Strock, right, James Johnson and Suzanne Buttrill work on a problem with the switches for one of the 16 counsel gaming stations at the new Warrior Zone facility on JBLM.

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    Rec. Center Director Bill Strock, right, James Johnson and Suzanne Buttrill work on a problem with the switches for one of the 16 counsel gaming stations at the new Warrior Zone facility on JBLM.

  • Bill Strock, rec. center director, right, and James Johnson work to correct a problem with the switches on one of the 16 counsel gaming stations at the new JBLM Warrior Zone facility.

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    Bill Strock, rec. center director, right, and James Johnson work to correct a problem with the switches on one of the 16 counsel gaming stations at the new JBLM Warrior Zone facility.

  • The new JBLM Warrior Zone facility opens Jan. 27, 2012.

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    The new JBLM Warrior Zone facility opens Jan. 27, 2012.

  • John Talaske, MWR information and technology specialist, tests one of the many gaming stations in preparation for the Jan. 27 grand opening of the new Warrior Zone facility on JBLM.

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    John Talaske, MWR information and technology specialist, tests one of the many gaming stations in preparation for the Jan. 27 grand opening of the new Warrior Zone facility on JBLM.

  • The Joint Base Lewis-McChord Warrior Zone opened Jan. 27.

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    The Joint Base Lewis-McChord Warrior Zone opened Jan. 27.

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- The food has been sampled. The computer games have been updated. The 53 high-definition TVs have been watched.

The Joint Base Lewis-McChord Warrior Zone is ready for its grand opening.

The high-tech, state of the art recreation center, located on JBLM Lewis North next to Wilson Sports and Fitness Center, opened Jan. 27.

The facility includes about $1 million worth of high-tech equipment for active duty members 18 years and older. The staff was busy making updates and checking connections to the gaming computers as well as the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 systems.

"It's kind of boring empty," FMWR Supervisory Recreation Specialist Bill Strock said. "I can't wait to fill it with guys and gals."

After Friday the Warrior Zone's coffee and sports bar will open daily at 6 a.m., while the recreation side opens at 11:30 a.m.

It typically takes about two weeks to train staff and test equipment leading up to a grand opening, but due to the snow and ice storm last week the staff hustled to make sure everything was ready to go when the doors opened for business. The Warrior Zone is the third of the "brand" to open on a military installation. There are two others at Fort Riley, Kan.

"We sat down with a vision for a new Army club for today's Soldier," said Doug Smith, Department of the Army's chief of business projects for the central region. "We designed some concepts based around what (JBLM) was already doing and taking it to the next level."

The Warrior Zone is a much-expanded version of Nelson Recreation Center. Strock, along with MWR Information and Technology Specialist John Talaske, had a vision in the early 1990s to upgrade the installation's recreation centers. They looked at what was popular with high schoolers and it turned out they were big into video and computer games.

"When we first tried to do it money was obviously a concern because it wasn't cheap," Talaske said. "We had to start very small. It was a very slow build."

Talaske was busy installing the updates for the various computer games in preparation for the grand opening. Several of the games such as World of Warcraft and Star Wars are very dynamic and are constantly being updated. The Warrior Zone has a multitude of multi-player online games of three genres: role playing, first person shooter and real time strategy.

Classic board games and a shuffleboard are also available, but Elizabeth Thunstedt, recreation manager of the Warrior Zone, wants people to know the high-tech recreation center is ahead of its time.

"This is such a departure from the old," she said. "I don't know where else you'll find top of the line gaming computers like these."

The multi-million dollar facility also includes an outdoor patio, a fire pit, pool tables, a movie room, and is now the new home for the JBLM's Better Opportunities for Single Servicemembers program. BOSS members were busy relocating from Nelson Recreation Center Monday.

"It is a new BOSS location because it is really geared toward the single servicemembers living in the area," said Strock, also the BOSS supervisor.

Somer Breeze-Hanson: somer.breeze-hanson@nwguardian.com

Page last updated Fri January 27th, 2012 at 14:23