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Chris Pfender, a maintenance supervisor, stacks snowboards Wednesday at the outdoor recreation office and business space in Hangar 973 at Misawa Air Base, Japan.
Chris Pfender, a maintenance supervisor, stacks snowboards Wednesday at the outdoor recreation office and business space in Hangar 973 at Misawa Air Base, Japan. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — The Weasel’s Den, Misawa’s new indoor recreation center, will open this winter in Hangar 973 but not until late January, according to base officials.

Manufacturing and shipping of the Go-Karts and climbing wall from the United States probably won’t happen until sometime in January, later than anticipated, said Bob Smith, 35th Services Squadron community support flight chief.

“Everything is on order,” he said.

A portion of the center, however, opens Monday. Outdoor Recreation is moving to the hangar, located behind Misawa Naval Air Facility headquarters, and Monday will begin running its equipment and van rental counter there from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a nine-hole miniature golf course and inflatable games, such as a bouncing castle and sumo wrestling.

The $1.7 million facility, geared toward single airmen and youth, should be especially helpful during Misawa’s long winters, Smith said. “Cabin fever,” he said. “We need a place to play in the winter time.”

The center, when completed, will be unique in the Air Force, Smith said, “because of the Go-Karts. There’s no place in the Air Force where they have an indoor Go-Kart track.”

The base has ordered 14 electric Go-Karts, including four with two seats, that can travel up to 30 miles per hour. Smith notes, however, that their speed can be controlled remotely if someone is driving unsafely.

One of the biggest changes to the center’s original design is a much larger climbing wall. Instead of a 10-foot bouldering wall, mostly for scrambling, base officials opted for an L-shaped climbing wall 18 feet high with an overhanging ledge, Smith said. Climbers will have to use ropes to ascend the face, though there’s also a bouldering area for kids on the wall’s lower portion.

Other attractions include video games, a “fun zone” for kids, an in-line skate park, an indoor roller hockey rink and a birthday party room. Admission fees will be charged only for miniature golf and Go-Karts. Cost and age limits for each activity have not been set yet, Smith said.

Also still undetermined is at what age a child can be left unsupervised at the den. Smith said officials likely will refer to the base’s community standards for guidance, noting “this is not a drop zone.”

Funding to renovate the hangar and for equipment comes in large part from Pacific Air Forces, officials have said, with money acquired before the military began tightening its belt to pay for the war on terror.

Space in Building 1044 once occupied by Outdoor Recreation will be used by the base honor guard and the youth gymnastics program, Smith said. He also said there will be classrooms for the youth center to use.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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