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Serge Kearse, Grafenwöhr, Germany’s chief of sports and fitness, supervised the installation of equipment at the new Grafenwöhr fitness center Friday.

Serge Kearse, Grafenwöhr, Germany’s chief of sports and fitness, supervised the installation of equipment at the new Grafenwöhr fitness center Friday. (Seth Robson / S&S)

GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — It doesn’t claim to be Globo Gym and it won’t offer competitive dodgeball, but the new Grafenwöhr fitness center is set to make the facility’s old gymnasium look like Average Joe’s when it opens here next month.

On Friday, Serge Kearse, chief of sports and fitness at Grafenwöhr, was at the new gym supervising the installation of the latest exercise gear and marveling at the gleaming glass walls.

Kearse doesn’t wear spandex like Ben Stiller’s gym owner character in the movie “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story,” but he’s highly committed to working out and enthusiastic about the new fitness center. After 14 years of working in Army gyms, he’s in a good position to know a good thing when he sees it.

“The old Army gyms had a basketball court and a weight room with just free weights and hardly any cardio equipment,” he said.

The old Grafenwöhr fitness center will stay open to support youth service programs but, Kearse said, “It can’t compete with this (the new gym) because this is a brand-new facility. People are going to get motivated here because it is state-of-the-art.”

The new gym is equal to the sort of facility a top U.S. university would provide, he said.

“If you go to an NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) campus in the States, this is pretty much what you will see,” he said, waving his arm toward an array of brand-new equipment — enough fitness machines to allow 150 people to work out at one time.

The gym’s cardio area includes 18 elliptical cross trainers, 20 exercycles and 10 steppers. The weights room includes a full line of Nautilus biomechanical weights machines for circuit training, Hammer Strength motion technology systems with separate weight stacks for each limb, and Hammer Strength free weights equipment including two sets of durothane rubber dumbbells going from 5 to 150 pounds.

Next to the cardio area, there are two basketball courts that can be converted to a single court at the press of a button that activates an air compressor to extend bleachers that seat up to 800 people.

Perhaps the most striking feature of the gym is a three-lane running track, an eighth of a mile long suspended on a catwalk above the courts.

The best thing about the new facility, Kearse said, is a central control desk that lets staff survey the entire facility. The desk also allows staff to turn lights at the sports fields on and off and activate shutters and blinds in all of the rooms to block window glare and save energy on heating and air conditioning.

There are 28 televisions and sound systems throughout the building. A two-story climbing wall will be operated by Outdoor Recreation Center staff.

After working out, customers can relax in a sauna and then dip in an ice-cold pool in the locker room.

Outside facilities include three new softball diamonds, a football/flag football field and an athletics area with a 400-meter running track, two high-jump areas, a long jump pit, and cages for discus, hammer and shot put.

The fitness center, scheduled to open March 1, will have 12 staff members and will stay open 90 hours a week, from 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends, Kearse said.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.
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