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Spangdahlem opens doors to new $24M fitness center

Some of the first patrons at the newly opened fitness center at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, utilize the weight-lifting equipment, Monday, Jan. 13, 2014.

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany — Base residents marked another ribbon-cutting here by burning some calories in the Air Force’s newest fitness center, a facility that’s part of a multiyear, multimillion-dollar expansion at Spangdahlem.

Two hours after the fitness center’s grand opening ceremony, the center was open to the public; treadmills were fired up and the weight room was christened with the first drops of sweat.

“It’s awesome,” said Tech. Sgt. Earlene Rice, who walked through the center with her colleague at public health, Staff Sgt. Dawn Bussell. “We went to every room except for the men’s locker room.”

“I think it’s going to be a nice change,” Bussell said. “The other one was just so old. This is open, brighter.”

The new fitness center, which doesn’t have a name yet, replaces Skelton Memorial Fitness Center. Skelton was built in 1953 and was the Air Force’s fourth-oldest fitness center still in use, according to base officials. Part of Skelton will be demolished; the remaining structure will be used for unit physical fitness training and other group fitness events, base officials said.

With about 69,000 square feet, the new $24 million center has more floor space than Skelton. Even on a gray, foggy day, the new center, with large windows throughout, was light and bright.

Amenities include a spacious gym floor with multiple basketball courts ringed by an upper-level jogging track; a rock climbing wall; and more instructional rooms.

The cardio machines allow users to view actual video footage of U.S. National Park hiking trails, and they’ll soon be set up with access to TV.

The Health and Wellness Center, located at the center, has a kitchen classroom for food and health classes.

The facility is part of the base’s northwest expansion program, spread across an area of nearly 133 acres, according to base officials.

The impending closure of Bitburg Annex is driving the $375 million construction project, as the Air Force and other agencies work to incorporate functions at Bitburg into Spangdahlem.

Some of the major projects yet to be completed include a new child development center, slated to open this summer; a new commissary, set to open by the summer of 2016; and renovation and expansion of the elementary school, said Quinn Newton, a community planner. A combined middle and high school is scheduled to be finished by December 2017.

“The middle school-high school is a relocation from Bitburg,” Newton said. “That’s kind of our linchpin in the closure of Bitburg. That is the last large block to move here; all of that is being relocated so that Spangdahlem can continue to function with all the functions that we used to have at two installations.”

svan.jennifer@stripes.com

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