AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — Starting Friday, this Italian air base will have as many fitness centers as it has Burger King franchises.
Of course, Aviano is better known for fast planes than fast food. But pretty soon the community may become known for its athletic facilities. By the time that the Aviano 2000 construction project is completed around 2007, the base will boast five gymnasiums. Not bad for an active-duty population of about 4,200 and a total American population about twice that.
It’s the newest gym that will be drawing the most attention now. It’s a part of the $4.2 million fitness center that debuts at the end of the week.
“Everything is brand new here,” said Jack Hayes, the base’s fitness and sports director. “The building. The equipment. Everything.”
Five hundred lockers. Two saunas. Two racquetball courts. A large room designed specifically for aerobic classes. And rows and rows of the latest exercise equipment — all of it waiting to be used for the first time.
“The first two or three months, it’ll be packed,” Hayes predicted. “Everyone will be using it.”
Hayes said he expects that participation will level out after that, but fitness center officials are counting on about 500 visitors a day. That’s in addition to a smaller number of people expected to keep on going to the fitness center across town on Area 2. The present fitness center there will eventually consolidate inside the gym on Area 2, freeing up more office space.
But many of the people who currently live in dorms on Area 2 will be moving over to new dormitories on the flight line around the end of summer.
That will mean more people will be closer to the new fitness center. When it opens, it will already have a substantial population within a block’s walking distance, though. The 31st Fighter Wing’s headquarters complex is right across a street.
The rest of the surrounding area is all devoted to athletics. A nine-hole golf course (with new club house), all-weather track and softball fields surround the fitness center on the three sides not facing the headquarters building.
Hayes said the exercise equipment was set up so that those not wishing to watch the handful of television sets in the room can look out the window toward the snow-covered mountains a short distance away from the base.
The fitness center is the latest addition to the Aviano 2000 program, a $550 million project with American, Italian and NATO funding that is transforming the areas that comprise the base.