WIESBADEN, Germany -- Military and civilian officials used a giant pair of scissors to cut the ribbon to officially open the Army's newest quality-of-life enhancement in U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden March 2.

Long in the making, the grand opening of the Wiesbaden Army Lodge marked the completion of a project that went through its share of challenges, including unanticipated water damages near the project completion, Internet connection problems and contractual issues.

"We have many projects ongoing - some more difficult than others," said Roger Gerber, USAG Wiesbaden's Transformation Stationing Management Office director, during a tour of the facility during the grand opening.

"Endlich fertig (finally finished)," was how Col. Jeffrey Dill, USAG Wiesbaden commander, described the occasion, thanking all of the participants including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Europe District; city planners; construction crews and Hessen Ministry officials for their "hard work" throughout the project - including the planning leading up to and after the groundbreaking in October 2007.

Pointing out that the new facility begins another chapter for Soldiers and their families commensurate with their service, Dill said, ongoing transformation efforts are aimed at "keeping Wiesbaden the community of choice."

"Over the course of the coming years and decades many people will pass through this facility," said Professor Dr. Luise Hoelscher, undersecretary for the Hessen Ministry of Finance. Calling the lodge and its location "the gateway to the city" of Wiesbaden, Hoelscher added, "I hope that they will feel comfortable."

Wiesbaden Lord Mayor Dr. Helmut Mueller was also on hand to help cut the ribbon and express his enthusiasm for ongoing German-American cooperation. Mueller, who consistently noted the project's progress while passing by Hainerberg Housing, said he was pleased to see the results first-hand, remarking that American guests should feel welcome at the new lodge as it is close to the city center, but also not far from opportunities for hiking and biking in the nearby countryside.

During a tour for the media before the ribbon-cutting event, Manager James Weber pointed out features of the new $36 million facility including a fitness room, guest laundry on each floor, free Internet use in each room and a free continental breakfast for guests in the lobby area. The lodge includes 64 standard rooms, 92 family rooms and eight extended stay units. It also caters to those with pets, featuring several rooms tailored to their needs.

"The hotel is built to Army lodging standard," said Weber. "If you go to a new hotel in Ansbach or Stuttgart, the rooms are exactly the same.

"The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers designed the lodge to adhere to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards," said Brian Temple, public affairs officer for the Europe District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. LEED, an internationally recognized green building certification system, ensures that energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction and other environmental factors were incorporated into the construction.

"For example, the lights and outlets in the rooms are powered on when the room key card is placed into a holster," he said. "This allows the standard fixtures to turn on. When an occupant leaves the room with his or her key card, the fixtures lose their electrical supply."

Other energy saving features include that all lighting features are equipped with energy saving light bulbs and rain water is collected in a cistern and used for irrigation, thus saving rain water.

"One of the good things about our hotel here is that we're close to everything," added Weber, pointing out that with its location next to the Wiesbaden Entertainment Center and not far from the Hainerberg Shopping Center, patrons can easily walk to U.S. military eateries and shops. A shuttle service is also available connecting the Army Lodge to Wiesbaden Army Airfield and other installations.

Newcomers and travelers can find more information about the new Wiesbaden Army Lodge by visiting the garrison's home page at www.wiesbaden.army.mil/sites/about/lodging.asp.