Fort Knox MWR closes 2023 with award-winning year

By Eric PilgrimDecember 15, 2023

FORT KNOX, Ky. — Everything seems to be turning up golden this year for Fort Knox’s Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs.

Fort Knox MWR closes 2023 with award-winning year
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Sam Adams Brewhouse has become a popular gathering spot for Soldiers, civilians and family members. Officials at Fort Knox Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation say they changed the focus of Sam Adams and Saber & Quill to capitalize on profits and quality service. (Photo Credit: Eric Pilgrim, Fort Knox News) VIEW ORIGINAL
Fort Knox MWR closes 2023 with award-winning year
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – (Photo Credit: Eric Pilgrim, Fort Knox News) VIEW ORIGINAL

Whether they are winning awards or earning Army-level recognition, the directorate seems to come up big everywhere. They recently earned high praise in National Recreation and Park Association’s annual Gold Medal Grand Plaque Award competition.

“In the military category, we were a finalist,” said Randy Moore, director of Fort Knox FMWR. “We have been a finalist for several years, and we even won it once – in 2013. This is a competition against all other services.”

There are seven categories, the first five based on population. However, there is also an Armed Forces Recreation category and a State Parks category. This year’s armed forces winner was Naval Air Station Atsugi in Kanagawa, Japan.

Fort Knox MWR closes 2023 with award-winning year
Officials say golfers played 15,700 rounds of golf in 2023 and hit more than 147,500 range balls at the Lindsey Golf Course. (Photo Credit: Eric Pilgrim, Fort Knox News) VIEW ORIGINAL

Moore said the award reflects the type of year it has been for them.

“We had a great 2023 all the way around,” said Moore. “Every program was successful. Our self-sustaining business Category C programs were all profitable. Our CYS program continued their legacy of excellence in higher command inspections as well as the commander’s local inspections.

“Army Community Service had a great year in terms of growth … and they had a huge increase in participation of customers and Soldiers in need of services.”

Fort Knox MWR closes 2023 with award-winning year
Oktoberfest 2023 was a big hit, with more than 5,000 enjoying the festivities, including 700 rides taken on the hayride to search through 1,000 pumpkins and children tackling several bouncy houses and games. (Photo Credit: Emily O'Bryan, Fort Knox Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL

Officials provided information, referrals and services to 46,629 individuals.

Moore said the recreation program also had a banner year.

“We opened eight brand new cottages out at Camp Carlson, which is a wonderful addition, bringing that area up to date,” said Moore.

The numbers stack up in FMWR’s favor.

For instance, Houston Bowling Center bowlers rented over 7,000 pairs of shoes and ate over 5,000 pizzas, more than 8,200 patrons spent 3,839 hours working on their vehicles or received over 4,100 services from mechanics, and customers at Sam Adams Brewhouse ordered over 83,200 chicken wings.

“Our business programs have really had a great turnaround,” said Moore. “Customers are coming back to our food and beverage program, our golf and bowling programs did exceptionally well. I’m very excited in that regard. It really was just a good year.”

Fort Knox MWR closes 2023 with award-winning year
Michael Steinmacher for the second time won librarian honors at the Library of Congress' 2019-2022 FEDLINK Awards July 11, 2023. (Photo Credit: Shawn Miller, Library of Congress. ) VIEW ORIGINAL

Moore said the onslaught of COVID-19 in 2020, while devastating in some ways, also provided an opportunity.

“It gave us an opportunity to right the program,” said Moore. “In other words, we had kind of oversaturated the post with our programs. Post-COVID, with teleworking and other things, gave us the opportunity to get the model right, which is a combination of what customers want and our ability to be profitable. Our services won’t last if they’re not profitable.”

The directorate falls up under non-appropriated funds, which is a line of government funding that requires them to turn a profit in order to succeed. Other NAF organizations include the Army and Air Force Exchange Service and Defense Commissary Agency.

Fort Knox MWR closes 2023 with award-winning year
Camp Carlson's new cottages have been a welcome addition to the FMWR footprint, already getting booked for future events, such as weddings. (Photo Credit: Eric Pilgrim, Fort Knox News) VIEW ORIGINAL

Any additional profits after bills are paid get rolled back into FMWR programs, which assists in upgrading and improving recreational opportunities for community members.

Moore said COVID provided another opportunity for them.

“We also took advantage of COVID by getting the organization in line with the climate in the market,” said Moore. “In FY23 was a full year of the new federal minimum wage, where we had some employees who got a 100% pay raise.”

Those employees who had been working at the minimum wage of $7.50/hour found themselves suddenly earning $15/hour.

“That’s an increase in labor dollars that we have to figure out a way to make that up,” said Moore.

Fort Knox MWR closes 2023 with award-winning year
Some of the 2023 achievements at Fort Knox FMWR (Photo Credit: Illustration courtesy of Fort Knox FMWR) VIEW ORIGINAL

One way they made up the shortfall was by reducing and consolidating their staff, refocusing services. One example was Saber & Quill and Sam Adams. Moore said they have made Sam Adams the primary food and beverage location, while repurposing Saber & Quill as the catering and conferencing location.

The new model worked.

“Everybody is profitable, and customers are getting what they want,” said Moore.

Moore said he is predicting this next year will continue that upward trend.

“With FY23 being a great year for us, we are poised for the upcoming year,” said Moore. “Everything that we set in place matured and matriculated and got to the point where we were successful.

“I think 2024 is going to be another great year.”