Rinehart Fitness Center won't be opening soon.

A tour of the building last week showed that there was still a lot of work to be done. Workers were installing new ceiling tiles at that time, but the floors, the walls, electric fixtures, the bathroom fixtures (like sinks, toilets and everything else) weren't done.

Workers filled in the large indoor pool at the gym with an elaborate scaffold and pressed board cover that supported several 3,000 pound scissor lifts. The reception area looked like an Oklahoma tornado had paid a visit. Large air conditioning units were sitting outside the building waiting to be installed.

According to Andrew Turnipseed, supervisor for Ten Bears Construction, the Lawton-based contractor renovating the gym, several parts of the job required more time than anticipated ... like the air conditioners. The new units were too big to fit through the doors.

"We have to take them apart, carry the components upstairs and reassemble them," Turnipseed said.

"There have been some delays in securing the necessary materials in order to meet their timelines," Bill Barwick, chief of community recreation for the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, said. "The pool area is a prime example. There is a backorder on parts for the fire alarm and chlorine detection systems; this has delayed the pool area from opening 'til mid to late December as well."

When the project started this summer, FMWR officials hoped it would be completed by mid November, though the contract specified an end date of Dec. 31, but it looks like the project won't be finished soon. Neither Turnipseed nor Gladys Crawford, facility manager, could project that date, but Barwick said, "I really think we are looking at mid to late January 2009 for a reopening of the entire facility

"We will continue to monitor the progress of this project and keep our patrons informed by follow-on Cannoneer articles," Barwick said. "I believe we will have a superior fitness center once all renovation is completed. Just think, we will be able to accommodate not only fitness needs but ceremonies and special events with a climate-controlled facility; this will be great for all."

WTU goes downtown
Because the indoor pool on post won't open soon, the FMWR staff reached out to the local community to make aquatic therapy available to wounded Fort Sill Soldiers.

"As soon as we found out that Rinehart's opening was delayed, we asked YMCA in Lawton if they could help us provide service to our Soldiers who need water therapy," Lauren Elizondo, manager of the pool at Rinehart, said. Elizondo said Carl Rankin, the director of the YMCA, responded quickly to help.

Now Soldiers in need of aqua therapy from the WTU or the hospital can use the pool on a set schedule for free. Elizondo pointed out that the free swimming pool access does not extend to the rest of the Fort Sill population, only to those needing aqua therapy.

"Any opportunity to help a wounded Soldier recover is a tremendous asset to the Soldier," Capt. Jonathan Priddy, commander of the WTU, said. "This shows the support the Lawton community has not only for for wounded Soldiers, but for the entire population of Fort Sill: Soldiers, family members, civilian employees and retirees. Lawton-Fort Sill is famous for its spirit of cooperation and continues to build on that reputation."