FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii - Workout warriors at the physical fitness center, here, could have more room to exercise in the near future, should a planned expansion project receive the necessary funding from the Army.

The Fort Shafter Physical Fitness Center built in 1973 and located in Building 665 along Chapplear Road, is too small to meet the growing demands of those who utilize the facility according to project supporters. The weight room, they say, is inadequate to accommodate all authorized equipment. As a result, gym users have to carefully navigate their way around the machines in close quarters.

"You almost have to move sideways in order to make your way past the Nautilus equipment," observed Robert Antonio, program manager and master planner within the Army's Directorate of Public Works (DPW). "It's really packed in there."

The Army has taken steps to address Soldiers' concerns for improved conditions at the existing physical fitness center. In October of 2008, for example, the Fort Shafter facility converted one of two racquetball courts into a dedicated cardio room, equipped with 17 cardio theater treadmills and elliptical machines.

Still, it's an expanded weight room that gym users are clamoring for these days. Should the project be approved, the expansion would begin sometime late next year and add roughly 1,800 square feet to the weight room training area, and pave the way for new fitness equipment to be installed.

"The extra space would be huge for us, just because of the growing population of the Soldiers and families who use the gym," added the center's supervisory sports specialist, Joe Fischer. "It gets rather tight in here, and from time to time, we have people waiting to use the equipment.

"So this addition, whenever it happens, would be great for us and our clientele."

However, Antonio cautioned that while the recent call for a request for proposal remains a positive sign for Fort Shafter's workout warriors, the reality is that funding may still not be available in the immediate future. He noted that all projects submitted through the Unspecified Minor Military Construction Army program, and which have been approved to receive funding of $2 million or less, are considered "urgent" matters and essential improvements by the submitting installations.

Thus, once a project receives funding approval from the Army, the appropriated monies are rarely withdrawn.

"In order for these other installations' projects to fall by the wayside, they would have to fail to get across the necessary paperwork," Antonio explained. "Or, there would have to be environmental concerns or safety issues that still need to be addressed.

"At that point, (an installation's) project may be delayed another year or so, and only then could we move up (on the funding list) and take their place."

According to Antonio, the expansion of the Fort Shafter fitness center is seen as an interim step until a larger fitness center, currently planned for Rice Manor neighborhood, can be constructed.

"But that won't happen anytime soon," he added. "That's a $25 to $30 million project, and I'd say it's at least 15 or 20 years away from being built."