In order to offer quality social and recreational amenities to servicemembers, the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Community Center will expand its hours starting in mid-August.

The main goal of the decision is to give servicemembers additional access to the center's recreation and leisure activities. The staff at the community center is attempting to turn spare time into quality relaxation time for all Soldiers, Marines, Honor Guard members and Families.

"It is noticeable that there is a need," recreational specialist Mitch Thompson said of the center's upcoming extra hours. "A lot of these young Soldiers come in here hanging around with their computers, and we have to let them out at six o'clock. We'll have a bunch of guys in there playing pool, and these guys will ask us why we're not open later."

But as of Tuesday, August 16, the JBM-HH Community Center will be open until 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays. One of the schools of thought in adding additional hours is that the safest place for a Soldier to relax during the evening is on base.

"It [more community center hours] is going to benefit the servicemembers even more," leisure travel representative Dee Dunmore said. "Instead of them having to find a place to go [after 6 p.m.] all they have to do is walk in the back door."

When a civilian or servicemember currently visits the community center, a wide variety of daily activities are available. During a recent hot August mid-day, a Navy Honor Guard found relief in the center's flat screen television area. Many Soldiers utilize the computer room, and table tennis and pool matches are constant pastimes. More state-of-the-art televisions with an array of programming are available in the main entry hall. Also in that hallway, stacks of travel brochures, maps and newspapers are available for servicemembers and visitors.

Currently, the JBM-HH Community Center's agenda is brainstorming the possible introduction of additional activities. X-box and Playstation video game console tournaments, chess and domino competitions may also be scheduled.

"They [servicemembers] want the pool, ping pong and the competition type of things," Thompson said. "At six o'clock, many Soldiers are looking to wind down. The way money is these days, a Soldier can save a lot of money by coming in here."

Those hearing of the expanded hours were in support of the change.

"That's a great idea," said Staff Sgt. Terrell Moorer, 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). "A lot of times when we'd get done with our day at 17 or 18 hundred [hours], this will be open." Moorer and some in his company are relieved the center will be open later since many Soldiers without Internet access can now log additional computer time.

"Sometimes you don't want to sit at a computer in an office; you want to get away, so I'll come in here," Staff Sgt. Megan Garcia said about the convenience of the club's computer room.

The center's Saturday and Sunday hours will remain at noon to 8 p.m.

According to Thompson, staying available and open until 8 p.m. during weekday evenings for servicemembers will not be a problem.

"We have the people to staff until 8 p.m. I don't think it would be hard to stay open to ten o'clock at night," he said. "When you start looking at how the military is set up, this is a [good] outlet for Soldiers. They want these amenities."

According to Facility Manager Andy Finnerty, the center teams with the base chaplain on Thursday evenings with a fellowship for Soldiers beginning at 5:30 p.m. All are welcomed to attend.

Also at the present time, the JBM-HH community center staff is in negotiations to bring back Tai Kwan Do instruction.

The center's office also offers travel tour vouchers, movie passes and tickets to Washington, D.C., area amusement parks like King's Dominion, Six Flags and Hershey Park. The office staff noted a recent increased interest in information regarding visits to historical sites such as Mount Vernon and Williamsburg.

The center also hosts free weekend movies.

A ballroom inside the community center is available for conferences, briefings, reunions, parties and wedding receptions.

"The ballroom is a great location for anniversaries and birthday events," Finnerty said. "It is available to all active and retired and DoD personnel.

The center is located between the consolidated dining hall and the bowling center on McNair Road. For more information on services and programs at the center, call 703-696-3470.