The Army & Air Force Exchange Service cut the ribbon on its brand-new Clear Creek Shopping Center on Oct. 1, bringing a modern shopping experience complete with a strong national brand presence to the Fort Hood community."This truly is a great place; we as Team Exchange are so proud that we can make this an even greater place," Exchange Director/Chief Executive Officer Tom Shull told the Fort Hood community before the doors opened on the 270,000-square-foot shopping center. "This is dedicated to you."Col. JP McGee, Fort Hood deputy commander of support, 1st Calvary Division, told the crowd he knew the new shopping center would have a lasting impact on the community."As we gather here today, it is easy to foresee all this PX will mean to Soldiers and their families," he said. "It is easy to imagine the countless wonderful memories that will be made here."Shoppers made their own grand-opening memories, some by arriving at 1 a.m. to be among the first inside the $47 million shopping center. By the time the ribbon was cut, hundreds of Soldiers, military families and retirees were waiting in a line that stretched around the building.Nilsa King, whose husband retired from the Army 20 years ago, was the first shopper in line, arriving more than eight hours ahead of the opening."I've never been the very first customer anywhere before, so I thought I'd come check it out," King said. "I'm not looking for anything special, but I'm sure I'll find something. It's an exciting day for us."The crowds delighted Exchange General Manager Paula Gunderson, whose team had worked long and hard to prepare for the big day."The Fort Hood community has waited a long time for this," said Exchange General Manager Paula Gunderson. "2015 is the 'Year of the Customer.' This shopping center is proof of the Exchange's commitment to taking care of the Fort Hood community and of family serving family."
The shopping center brings the main store, mall and food court under one roof. The main store boasts name-brand 'concept shops,' including Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren and Bobbi Brown. A special BE FIT section is stocked with athletic wear for men and women from name brands such as Under Armour, Nike and Adidas.The BE FIT section was a hit with Pvt. Damon Fort, a computer/detection systems repairer with Company B, 115th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division."The BE FIT area is really nice-definitely an upgrade from what we're used to," Fort said, adding that he was especially impressed by the wide selection of weights and other fitness products.Military spouse Sandra Ramirez shopped on grand-opening day, checking out the Exchange's selection of name-brand handbags and accessories."I'm going to look for a Coach wallet," said Ramirez, whose family has been at Fort Hood for three years. "My husband owes me a wallet for my birthday."The PowerZone has been amped up with concept shops for latest the Apple, Sony and Bose products. For families, the bright, inviting childrenswear section showcases fashionable kids clothing at prices Mom and Dad can afford: $5, two for $15, $10, $15 and $20.Shoppers found more national names in the mall, including Great Clips and It'Sugar-the first-ever locations for these brands at an Exchange. National brands like MAC cosmetics, Sally Beauty Supply, GameStop and Starbucks are also present, giving the mall a modern look and feel.Feven Armstrong, whose husband is medically retired from the Army, made the MAC store her first stop."MAC is my favorite-I'm so glad it's here," said Armstrong, noting that she'd drive more than an hour from her home in Killeen, Texas, to the nearest MAC in Austin. "The entire shopping center is just beautiful. I can't wait to see the whole thing."Besides the main store and mall, military shoppers packed the food court as well. Diners have plenty of options to choose from, including Smoothie King, Boston Market and The Den by Denny's.For Gunderson, seeing the community enjoy the store, mall and food court was worth the wait."I hope the community enjoys this new shopping center, not just today, but for years to come," she said.