By Laura M. LeveringJune 25, 2010
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Soldiers living in barracks have one less excuse to feel confined to them.
After being closed for nearly 18 months, Nelson Recreation Center reopened its doors in a ceremony June 17. Originally built in 1960, the center underwent major renovations. It's all a part of the Army Family Covenant's promise to improve quality of life for Soldiers and their families.
"From the $4.5 million that was put into it, you can't tell it was built in 1960," said Col. Thomas Brittain, Joint Base Lewis-McChord garrison commander.
Upgrades to the center include several rooms, each with its own special features. Among them are a movie room showing films in Blueray high definition, a billiards room with four new full-size pool tables, a videogame room equipped with nine system-linked Xboxes, and a computer room for gaming and Internet use, with printing capability.
The center also features free Wi-Fi, a TV room where Soldiers can watch their favorite shows on one of eight 42-inch flatscreens while relaxing on electronic recliners, a multipurpose ballroom for unit functions and other events, as well as an outdoor area for outside recreation.
Although designed with single Soldiers in mind, the center has something for everyone and is open to all military ID cardholders.
"It's been done based on input from single Soldiers as to what they would like to have," Brittain said. "It was a very long process to come to fruition, but a lot of effort has gone into it."
Bill Strock, center manager, said he has received a lot of positive feedback from Soldiers. One of those Soldiers, Spc. Rachael Purcell of 514th Medical Company, said she was very impressed with everything the center has to offer.
"This place is amazing," Purcell said. "This place has new surprises everywhere. I love it."
Private 1st Class Meredith Ehrhart, also with 514th Med. Co., said she plans to go to the center on weekends and during lunch breaks.
"It's a fun place to just come hang out," Ehrhart said. "It will also help people make new friends with people that they don't just work with."
Strock hopes more Soldiers will take time to stop by and see the new center, which he is convinced will keep them coming back.
"Soldiers need to relax, and this is one place they can really do that," Strock said. "Part of the Army focus is to get people out and about, because if you sit in your room and dwell by yourself and a 12-pack of beer, (bad) things can happen."
"With all of the high-tech equipment being here, and the barracks so close, Soldiers are going to want to come here," said Sgt. Danielle Batiste, president of Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers. "It's like a home away from home."
Brittain said the center's renovations were so impressive that it received attention from others across the nation, and ultimately, is paving the way for an even better center.
"Nelson Rec.'s plan to bring you this stuff really got FMWR at the headquarters level to look at it, so it's become the model for a bigger, better 'Warrior Zone' that we're going to start building at the end of this year over on (JBLM Lewis North)," Brittain said. "The work that has gone into Nelson Rec.' has actually turned the tide across all FMWRs in the Army."
Laura M. Levering is a reporter with Joint Base Lewis-McChord's weekly newspaper, the Northwest Guardian.