MANAMA, Bahrain — To meet demands of a growing population on the Navy base in Bahrain, construction is under way on an addition to the Navy Exchange, though officials say there are no immediate plans to increase inventory.

The two-story, 30,000-square-foot facility, which opened in 2006, had $48 million in sales in 2007. Last year sales had grown to $79 million.

Officials say the current NEX was simply not designed to support the volume of customers, with nearly 7,000 U.S. personnel, families and support staff at Naval Support Activity Bahrain.

“The business has exploded,” Patrina Jordan, the Bahrain NEX general manager, said.

Construction is under way to add 2,750 square feet to the second floor apparel and electronics departments by enclosing a terrace.

However, Jordan said people should not expect to see more merchandise any time soon.

While the NEX’s surveys indicate more merchandise is a top priority for customers, the “addition” — expected to be completed in the fall — is to allow more “wiggle room,” widening the aisles to comply with the American with Disabilities Act.

However, Jordan does plan to use the addition to consolidate children’s items into one department in response to a growing number of U.S. families living in Bahrain.

“We hope to be able to bring that whole category together,” she said, citing items such as baby food, diapers and children’s furniture.

“That would be nice,” said Monica Marinelli, a mother and newcomer to Bahrain. Marinelli points out that the current setup has baby items in different sections instead of one centralized location.

For those hoping for more merchandise, an expansion that includes a bigger first-floor grocery and household items section is in the design phase, though it is not clear when that might begin.

Jordan said that, “at the end of the day, to really make the impact, we need more space, and that’s why that expansion is so important.” If it happens, “that’s when our customers will clearly see a transformation in the store.”

The U.S. presence in Bahrain continues to grow. Earlier this month three U.S. coastal patrol ships — with about 75 sailors — were permanently stationed in Bahrain, which is home to the U.S. 5th fleet. There are plans to bring two more coastal patrol ships next spring. Twitter: @hendricksimoes

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