Support our mission
 
Sgt. Omar Castro of the 4th Battalion, 3rd Air Defense Artillery, makes adjustments to a treadmill at the Army's Larson Barracks in Kitzingen, Germany. The Larson gym reopened Wednesday after a yearlong, $2 million makeover.
Sgt. Omar Castro of the 4th Battalion, 3rd Air Defense Artillery, makes adjustments to a treadmill at the Army's Larson Barracks in Kitzingen, Germany. The Larson gym reopened Wednesday after a yearlong, $2 million makeover. (Steve Liewer / S&S)

KITZINGEN, Germany — After more than a year of reconstruction and a week of furnishing, U.S. Army Europe’s newest gym finally is ready for some sweat.

Leaders from the 417th Base Support Battalion snipped a ribbon Wednesday afternoon and opened the $2 million complex at Kitzingen’s Larson Barracks just in time for Thanksgiving.

“Everyone I’ve brought in for a preview — invariably, they just say, ‘Wow!’ ” said Rick Randall, the 417th BSB’s director of community activities.

In October 2002, Randall shuttered the dingy, dreary old gym and disposed of the worn-out free weights. Construction workers gutted the inside and rebuilt it, with new offices, a basketball court, scoreboards, a racquetball court and locker rooms.

A large glass-walled weight room replaces a cramped, dark one, and a second floor has been added for cardiovascular exercise and aerobics. Two 61-inch wall-mounted televisions have been added for those riding exercise bikes and cross-country ski machines. The soft, wooden aerobics floor cost $17,000.

Besides the new construction, the BSB spent more than $100,000 on new aerobics and weight equipment, Randall said. None of the machines is more than a year old.

“This place was one of the worst fitness centers in the Army,” Randall said. “Now, I’d argue that it’s the premier facility in Germany.”

Spc. Eric Smith and Sgt. Omar Castro are among a group of soldiers who got the first look at the new facility because their units sent them to work there. They helped set up the equipment inside, hauling much of it from Larson’s temporary exercise facility, which opened in October 2002 and wasclosed Nov. 19.

“There’s a lot more equipment, bigger space,” said Castro, 24, of the 4th Battalion, 3rd Air Defense Artillery. “It looks nicer.”

“I hope the people appreciate it,” added Smith, 21, of the 121st Signal Battalion. “It’s taken a lot of manpower. … Overall, I think it’s a prime facility.”

An influx of money from the Army Community of Excellence program has helped the 417th BSB improve all four of the gyms at bases in Würzburg, Kitzingen and Giebelstadt. The BSB received a $500,000 prize for winning a U.S. Army Europe quality-of-life competition in 2001, and $1 million more for winning the Armywide contest in 2002. Citizen committees at each of the bases set spending priorities at each base, and improving fitness centers landed near the top of the list.

Randall said the prize money has entirely funded the $120,000 gym renovation at Giebelstadt Army Airfield, headquarters of the 12th Aviation Brigade and 69th Air Defense Artillery, as well as the purchase of $30,000 worth of new exercise equipment.

He said one of the two basketball courts has been turned into a cardio/strength room, and racquetball and boxing facilities have been added. Previously, the weight room had been in a separate building, a converted bowling alley not built for strength training. That project will be finished in about three weeks.

The news is not so good for soldiers at Harvey Barracks, the Army’s other large base in Kitzingen. The gym, built in a vintage 1932 aircraft hangar, had been scheduled for a makeover similar to the Larson fitness center. That project reportedly has been shelved because of a change in funding priorities.

Migrated

stars and stripes videos

around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up