FORT CAMPBELL, Tenn. - A closed off street and a recently fenced off area are gathering more and more attention at Fort Campbell. It's not because of an inconvenience, but because of what is to come. Construction will soon begin on a state-of-the-art commissary.

"This commissary has been here since 1974," said Sharon Parton, Fort Campbell Commissary store director. "We do $72 million a year [in sales] with no space."

The new commissary, which should be completed by June 2011, will have 63,134 square feet of sales area. That is almost 20,000 more square feet than the current building.

"That's the biggest change," said Parton. "It is just going to be a bigger store in general."

The project award announcement from the Defense Commissary Agency explains the new facility will be one of the largest commissaries. "The completed facility will provide a modern state-of-the-art shopping facility that will be environmentally friendly and energy efficient."

Among the enhancements to the new facility will be electronic shelf labels. The electronic displays will help to decrease human error in pricing.

"All the prices are downloaded from headquarters right now at Fort Lee, but they are printed on labels," said Parton. "The human error comes in with hanging labels up and taking the old ones down. Now it's going to be a touch of the button and prices are changed on the shelves."

Warren Evans has been retired from the military for 37 years and shopping at a commissary on Fort Campbell for about 50 years. He has seen the commissary grow and improve over the years.

"We started out when it was in a little wooden building on the other side of post," said Evans. "Each one has been an improvement over the last. I hope the new one will be an improvement over this one."

With the current commissary location, some who are newer to the installation sometimes find it difficult to get to. The new location will be a straight shot from the Gate 4 entrance and down Normandy Boulevard. The new commissary will be located immediately to the right off Normandy Boulevard, just past Indiana Avenue.

"That's even better," said Pfc. Edgar Maldonado, 1st Squadron, 33rd Cavalry Regiment. "If you miss the road now with the one way, you have to go all the way around."

Maldonado, his wife and two young children currently don't use the commissary very often. They find it difficult with the location and the limited space in the store. He explained, though, that is likely to change with the new location, more parking and a bigger store.

"I think I would shop there more often," said Maldonado.

Parking at the new location will be about double that of the current location.
The parking on the side of the new building will be for employees. The new building will be a total of 122,351 square feet. The largest increase is in the sales area. The space will be divided among the different departments. It will allow for larger aisles and more shelving space for products.

"Currently, with the first 24 people to buy something, if I don't have someone coming up behind and putting 24 cans [restocking the shelves], you and I don't get it until the next day," said Parton. "But over there, if there's room for 96 cans of it, chances are we'll have the opportunity to buy something that might not have a chance to be restocked during the day."

The current plans may only cause a small increase in the number of workers at the commissary. The new store is slated to have only a few more registers than the current store. There is the chance, though, if sales increase as much as DeCA would like, more employees could come to the commissary to help with the increased workload caused by the increase in sales.

"Fort Belvoir, [Va.] right now is doing somewhere around $10 million [in sales] a month," said Parton. "Right now in this small space, we're topping out around $6 to $6 and a half million. DeCA would like us to be number one at least in the eastern region for commissaries in sales."

Sally Castleman, Directorate of Public Works Master Planning Division chief, explained the old building will be renovated once the new commissary is completed.

"It is going to be converted into a Soldier Service Center," said Castleman. "It's going to be kind of like a one-stop shop for in and out processing for the Soldiers."
As the Dec. 11 groundbreaking ceremony approaches, enthusiasm for the new commissary continues to grow.

"A lot went into making this happen," said Parton. "It's an exciting time. There's a lot of enthusiasm. It's been a long time coming."