VICENZA, Italy — About eight years after reaching an agreement for an expanded U.S. military presence in Vicenza, the newest Army facility in Europe is just weeks away from heavy use.

Construction is about 98 percent complete at the installation known as Caserma Del Din, a former military/civilian airfield located 20 minutes from Caserma Ederle, where many of the units that will be moving to Del Din are currently housed.

“Everything you would expect from a 21st century installation is here,” said Col. David Buckingham, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza during a media tour Thursday. “The base will become fully operational on the 1st of June.”

The 145-acre facility cost the U.S. more than $300 million. It will be home to four of the six battalions of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. There are 31 new buildings and 10 originally built by the Italian military.

The newly built installation will house the 173rd headquarters, two battalions currently based in Germany, and one infantry battalion and the 509th Signal Battalion, both of which are currently located at Ederle.

“Del Din was conceived and designed for the 173rd Brigade, but since 2005, US Army Africa has grown in Vicenza,” said Buckingham. “All of U.S. Army Africa is anticipated to occupy Del Din – half will move this summer and the rest over the next few years.”

About 2,000 soldiers will work on the base and about half that number will live there.

There are two multi-story barracks, each designed to house about 600 soldiers. Every suite accommodates two soldiers, each with private sleeping quarters, but shared kitchen and bathroom. All single enlisted soldiers from staff sergeant and below will be assigned to the barracks.

“One of the most important design ideas on this base is to make it a complete walking base,” Buckingham said. “No more driving – you won’t find many streets on Del Din.”

The base has two multi-level garages, which have space for 800 cars and 50 motorcycles.

“In order to promote an eco-friendly environment, we built everything to allow soldiers to bike or walk in,” said Leo Hargreaves, the lead project engineer for Del Din.

Each of the Battalion office buildings has locker, shower and mud rooms and there are classrooms and an indoor firing range nearby.

The dining facility can hold 450 soldiers and push 1,800 soldiers through during a meal. A café is located in The Warrior Zone, which features gaming and billiard areas.

“The Warrior Zone is a great place to come and relax – and have some fun,” said Marilee Mastaler, the Warrior Zone manager.

When soldiers aren’t spending their free time at the zone, they can head to the gym. In addition to weight-training and cardio equipment, it features a heated pool, rock climbing wall and combatives room.

Landscaping is under way.

“We have already planted more than 600 of the 1,100 large trees planned for Del Din and more than the trees, we are planting 5,000 shrubs,” Buckingham said.

The Italian community will get to tour the base before most of its U.S. military occupants do. An open house is scheduled for May 4.

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