By Tim HippsMay 31, 2011
WARRIOR Zones offer high-tech recreation opportunities for Soldiers who want to get out of their barracks rooms but stay on their installations.
While computer gaming is the main attraction at these recreation centers, run by Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command, troops also gather to watch sporting events on large, high-definition, flat-screen TVs, while eating, gaming and mingling.
But all this can come at a high cost.
Recognizing the value of these facilities, and with a cost-conscience business model in mind, Europe Region officials improvised by standing up interim facilities and renovating existing buildings.
Through a bulk-buy acquisition process, they purchased the TVs, gaming systems, home theater units, computers and furniture to standardize Warrior Zones throughout the region. As time and funds permit, FMWRC will continue to build new structures, and the existing equipment and furnishings will be moved to the completed facilities.
“The Warrior Zone is kind of like a recreation center gone high-tech,” said Kris D’Alessandro, director of MWR at Fort A.P. Hill, Va. D’Alessandro helped develop the concept while working at FMWRC headquarters. “The main focus is all the technology. The concept is for the gaming to be the main purpose.”
Wi-Fi and high-speed Internet access alone is enough to get traffic headed to the technology-driven activities centers. Toss in a few video arcades with console, handheld, online, personal computer and audio games, and Warrior Zones can get busy in a hurry.
Warrior Zone success came most quickly in Europe, where 13 vacant buildings were retrofitted to house high-tech recreations centers.
“Some used old rec centers and some used old clubs,” D’Alessandro said. “The basic needs are the computers, the gaming computers, the theater, the email computers (the building should be Wi-Fi), sports lounge"complete with flat-screen TVs for viewing sports"and a bar that serves draft beer and wine.
“Some of them might have a Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers office, an area outside for a picnic pavilion, billiards, table tennis and air hockey"if they have the room. But the big things are the gaming, the computers and the theater"all the technology stuff.”
The original guidance from the Office of the Secretary of Defense called for the creation of a “servicemember techno-activity center,” which quickly evolved into the Warrior Zone on the Army side of the house, thanks in part to FMWRC Commander Maj. Gen. Reuben D. Jones, who coined the name.
Army installations have Warrior Zones in Ansbach, Bamberg, Baumholder, Grafenwoehr, Heidelberg, Hohenfels, Kaiserslautern, Mannheim, Schweinfurt and Wiesbaden, Germany, and two in Italy at Livorno and Vicenza.
Camp Zama, Japan, has a Warrior Zone, and there are three in Alaska"on Forts Greeley, Richardson and Wainwright.
In the continental United States, using empty buildings poses a challenge, as there just aren’t as many available as found overseas. Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., and Fort Riley, Kan., are both building Warrior Zones"half of which are being retrofitted. Three more Warrior Zones are planned for Fort Hood, Texas, with others coming soon to Fort Bliss, Texas, and Fort Sill, Okla.
“It’s a different situation in Europe, where they could leave post but there’s nothing like it off post,” D’Alessandro said. “Here, they could leave post and go to similar places, but they also might have these things at home.
“But Europe did jump on the bandwagon to establish Warrior Zones really quickly, so it is kind of a feather in their cap and they should be commended for that.”
From action, adventure and role-playing to simulation, sports and tournament game strategy, Warrior Zones offer state-of-the-art platforms, such as Xbox, PlayStation and Wii, for gaming aficionados. Some of the games include: “Call of Duty,” “Army of Two,” “World of Warcraft,” “America’s Army” and “Street Fighter.”
“This is keeping up with the 18-to-25 age-group of the computer age, of everything that they’ve been growing up on, because that’s the thing they mostly are interested in,” D’Alessandro said.
Warrior Zones usually feature audio and lighting for entertainment and sporting events, along with meeting spaces for social activities. Traditional games such as billiards, chess, darts, poker, table tennis and air hockey are also available if space allows.
Keeping everything under one roof and within walking distance of the barracks has also proved important in attracting customers and their guests.
“To have all that located in one facility is really special,” D’Alessandro said. “After talking with the folks at Forts Lewis and Riley, Soldiers love the Warrior Zone. It’s standing-room-only some nights"they’re really packed with Soldiers"so you can see there was a need for it.”