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AAFES and Kadena Air Base leaders dig their ceremonial spades into the soil three times to break the ground as part of a Shinto ceremony to bless the construction site for a new exchange on Kadena.
AAFES and Kadena Air Base leaders dig their ceremonial spades into the soil three times to break the ground as part of a Shinto ceremony to bless the construction site for a new exchange on Kadena. (Cindy Fisher / S&S)
AAFES and Kadena Air Base leaders dig their ceremonial spades into the soil three times to break the ground as part of a Shinto ceremony to bless the construction site for a new exchange on Kadena.
AAFES and Kadena Air Base leaders dig their ceremonial spades into the soil three times to break the ground as part of a Shinto ceremony to bless the construction site for a new exchange on Kadena. (Cindy Fisher / S&S)
Yoshimasa Arakaki, a Shinto priest, scatters paper at four corners of the construction site for a new exchange on Kadena Air Base as part of a Shinto ceremony to purify the site.
Yoshimasa Arakaki, a Shinto priest, scatters paper at four corners of the construction site for a new exchange on Kadena Air Base as part of a Shinto ceremony to purify the site. (Cindy Fisher / S&S)

KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Construction of a new exchange on Kadena Air Base is set to start now that a Shinto priest purified the site Friday.

The traditional Shinto ceremony blessed the site and prayed for the safety of construction workers and prosperity for the facility and its inhabitants.

Construction of the 324,628-square-foot facility, to be located next to the commissary, is scheduled to start in January.

The exchange should be completed in May 2009 and open later that summer, said Art Arao, the project coordinator with 18th Civil Engineering Group.

The new facility will house nine food concessions in a food court on the first floor and will include 135,000 square feet of retail space on the second floor.

It will cost about $80 million to complete and once opened will be the second-largest Army and Air Force Exchange Services shopping mall, said Dan Tompkins, the senior vice president for the AAFES Pacific region. The largest AAFES shopping mall is at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

Book lovers, upset by the removal of the only AAFES book store on the island from the Camp Foster Exchange in the summer of 2006, will be happy to note that the first floor will also include a new Bookmark, said Master Sgt. Donovan K. Potter, an AAFES spokesman. Other retail services slated for the first floor include a barber shop, beauty salon, flower shop, a cell phone store and an optical shop.

The current 116,700-square-foot exchange, which cost $356,000 to build in 1955, will be torn down to make way for a 724-slot parking lot.

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