KITZINGEN, Germany — The days of sweating through a summer movie in the theater at Würzburg’s Leighton Barracks won’t last much longer.

An air-conditioning system for the Leighton cinema is among the highest-profile improvements the 417th Base Support Battalion is funding with the $1 million prize it won last year in the Army Community of Excellence program.

The 417th BSB — which includes bases in Kitzingen and Giebelstadt as well as Würzburg — won the Army-wide grand prize in April 2002, a year after taking a $500,000 prize as the U.S. Army Europe champion.

The list of 21 projects is heavy with upgrades to the base gyms and libraries. Big-ticket items include a $185,000 refurbishment to softball fields at two bases in Kitzingen, $100,000 in sports field upgrades at Giebelstadt, and a new $70,000 skateboarding park at the Marshall Heights housing area.

“The intent was to spread the money throughout the community,” said Ann Cantrell, the BSB’s executive officer.

To win the prize, the 417th BSB beat out 13 other entrants in U.S. Army Europe, then finished first among 10 finalists from around the world, said Glynis Walker, who coordinates the program for the Installation Management Agency-Europe.

Each entrant is asked to submit detailed answers to a long series of questions, buttressed with statistics illustrating its effort to improve. The Army then sends trained examiners to the base to assess the accuracy of the community’s written report.

David Leinberger, the 417th BSB’s quality control officer, said the program is about more than prize money. It’s a way to make base leadership accountable for boosting its services. The contest dovetails with the Army Performance Improvement Criteria, the management system used by bases worldwide since 1999.

“All this is nice, but we don’t do it for the money,” Leinberger said. “We do it to improve the BSB.”

Shortly after the prize was announced, leaders of the BSB asked the community to offer suggestions about how to spend it. Last winter, they appointed a seven-member committee each from Giebelstadt, Kitzingen and Würzburg, consisting of single soldier, a noncommissioned officer, an officer, a spouse, a parent, a civilian employee and an Area Support Team representative.

The committees prioritized the suggestions, and BSB staffers studied costs to see how many they could fund, spreading out the money to each of the three communities in rough proportion to its population.

The decision to spend money at each base effectively eliminated one of the most popular suggestions, which was to either build a new indoor pool or cover one of the two existing ones in Kitzingen or Giebelstadt. Cantrell said that single project probably would have soaked up almost all of the prize money.

She said the first two projects (football field lights at Kitzingen’s Harvey Barracks and a fence for the Leighton Barracks skateboarding park built with prize money from a year earlier) are on the verge of construction. The bidding process has begun on most of the others. All of them should be complete within a year, Cantrell said.

This year’s contest was delayed because of the war in Iraq, but the winners recently were announced. The Bamberg-based 409th Base Support Battalion won the USAREUR contest, plus $500,000 in prize money as a worldwide finalist.

Franz Zeilmann, a 409th BSB spokesman, said specific projects haven’t yet been chosen, but the money will be used for quality-of-life improvements.

“In the past, we’ve used it to improve sidewalks, install marquees — things that would benefit the entire community,” he said.

— Rick Emert contributed to this report.

Projects to be funded

WürzburgLeighton Barracks

• Air-conditioning for theater• Fly screens in single-soldier barracks• Furniture for youth-services center• Elliptical trainers for gym• New shelving and furniture for library

Kitzingen:Harvey Barracks, Larson Barracks, Marshall Heights housing area

• Renovation of softball fields at Harvey and Leighton• Lights for football field at Harvey• Skateboarding park at Marshall Heights• Automated phone system for health clinic appointments• Elliptical trainers at Harvey gym• Volleyball equipment for Larson gym• Equipment and furniture for Larson library

Giebelstadt:Army Airfield

• Improvements to sports fields• Addition of cardio and weight rooms at gym• New computers work stations for library• Climbing wall, treadmills, stationary bicycle, scoring table, folding chairs for gym

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