FORT LEWIS, Wash. - The post continued its expansion and enhancement of facilities June 24, breaking ground on a splash park, playground and multipurpose facility. All three will be affiliated with the new Child, Youth and School Services sports complex on main post.

"There was a lot that went into this project, in making it all flow together," said Col. Cynthia Murphy, garrison commander. "It will be a wonderful park for our Soldiers and families to enjoy."

The idea is to combine the youth sports complex, which consists of playing fields, with the future playground, spray park and multipurpose facility.

Combined, the area is designed to become a walkable park called the Army Family Covenant Park, with amenities for all members of the family.

"Moms and dads can come watch their kids' games (at the youth sports complex), while their smaller ones play in the splash park or on the playground," said Denis Senftner, the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation deputy.

The ground-breaking event prepared the Summit Skate Arena for transformation into a multipurpose facility. The area behind the skating arena will soon house the spray park and playground, designed to accommodate exceptional family members.

According to Senftner, Fort Lewis has approximately 1,100 exceptional family members enrolled at Madigan Army Medical Center. With no current play area accessible to them on post, the new playground is designed with ramps and side panels.

The playground, for children 12 and under, will be open year round to the public, while the splash park will have water running only during the warmer months.

"It's the perfect solution for us because our outdoor facilities are limited," said Murphy.

At about 3,500 square feet, the park will give young children an area to cool off and play around.
Fort Lewis isn't the first post to develop this concept. Fort Stewart, Ga., was the first to implement a splash park, with Fort Sill, Okla., following right behind. At Fort Sill, the park consisted of water cannons, fire hydrants and tilt buckets.

The park opened in August 2008 and, according to employees, reaches its patron capacity on a daily basis.

"It's a big hit here at Fort Sill," said Lauren Elizondo, the aquatics manager at the post.

But outdoor facilities aren't the only changes coming to Fort Lewis.

The Summit Skate Arena will become a multipurpose center, consisting of a coffee shop, snack bar and conference rooms. The conference rooms will provide space for approximately 40 adults, with on-site child care provided by CYSS' staff.

Quiet areas, with wireless Internet capabilities, are another highlight of the multipurpose facility. "This way mom and dad can sit and watch their kids skate but don't have to enjoy the music," Senftner laughed.

According to Senftner, the playground and splash park are expected to open in the middle of August. The multipurpose facility will follow, opening 90 days later.

Kelly McGrath is a reporter with Fort Lewis' Northwest Guardian.