YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — The Taiyo Recreation Center is about to be partially closed for a $300,000 renovation project that will include an asbestos abatement that takes place during any major building overhaul at Yokota.

But most activities and classes at the facility won’t be affected, said Robert McFall, chief of the 374th Services Division’s Family Member Programs Flight. Work begins April 3 and should be completed by July 31.

“Careful planning will allow for all classes to continue, the front desk will remain manned and the Thrift Shop will continue normal operating hours during the renovations,” McFall said.

The West Side Deli, however, will be closed during the restoration as the Taiyo is cleared of all furniture and equipment.

Walls will be painted and new carpet installed throughout, and the second floor is set to receive communications upgrades.

The 47,000-square-foot Taiyo Recreation Center is among the largest facilities at Yokota. It’s used for a variety of functions, including dance and drama classes, shows, concerts, formal dinners and special heritage days.

It opened in November 2000, but base officials began discussing refurbishment more than three years ago, McFall said.

“When I arrived here in November 2002, I remember noticing that the beautiful first-class facilities and carpets were worn and spotted, and the paint was showing its age,” he said. “At that time, we started working on a renovation plan to keep the building a first-class facility. Now, after almost three-and-a-half years, the renovation plan is coming to fruition.”

Sloane Wendell, toxic manager for the 374th Civil Engineer Squadron’s Environmental Flight, said asbestos removal is necessary because Japanese contractors commonly use the material during construction. It’s present in most Yokota buildings at safe levels, she said.

“Asbestos is not hazardous until it becomes friable,” she said, referring to when particles are broken into small fragments or reduced to powder. “At that point, it has the potential of being inhaled into the lungs. … Asbestos is completely safe when it remains undisturbed and kept in its original state.”

The asbestos in the Taiyo is in adhesive material in the baseboard wall covering, Wendell said.

“It’s not friable and in its current state there is no health hazard,” she said. “However, during the renovation work, the building materials that contain asbestos may be disturbed.”

To prevent exposure risks and follow established U.S. regulations, Wendell said, a professional firm will handle required asbestos abatement prior to the renovation work. The targeted area will be contained and sealed off from the Taiyo’s other rooms and common areas still in use during removal.

Wendell says this prevents asbestos particles from escaping and ensures people on the outside aren’t exposed to any potential health hazards.

“This will ensure a safe work environment during the renovation process,” she said. “Abatement of asbestos is completed with the utmost safety of community members and workers involved in the project.”

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