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A crowd watches Thursday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.

A crowd watches Thursday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony. (Michael Abrams / S&S)

A crowd watches Thursday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.

A crowd watches Thursday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony. (Michael Abrams / S&S)

Visitors view the lobby of KMCC’s Ramstein Inn.

Visitors view the lobby of KMCC’s Ramstein Inn. (Michael Abrams / S&S)

Lt. Col. Dawn Lancaster, commander of Ramstein Air Base’s 435th Services Squadron, celebrates Thursday after she and other dignitaries cut the ribbon to open the first section of the Kaiserslautern Military Community Center.

Lt. Col. Dawn Lancaster, commander of Ramstein Air Base’s 435th Services Squadron, celebrates Thursday after she and other dignitaries cut the ribbon to open the first section of the Kaiserslautern Military Community Center. (Michael Abrams / S&S)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — With the snip of a blue ribbon, a portion of the Kaiserslautern Military Community Center opened its doors Thursday, six long years after ground was broken on the site.

It was a day customers and base officials alike thought they might never see.

"I’ve been here since 2005. I never thought it would open while I was here," said Staff Sgt. Karen Harris, 26, of the 435th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Ramstein.

Harris was in the lunch line for Romano’s Macaroni Grill, the world’s largest, according to base officials. The wait was about 15 minutes, she said.

Romano’s, the Wasgau German bakery and Ramstein Outdoor Recreation appeared to draw the biggest crowds.

Long-time Ramstein area teachers Erik and Cheri de Haas were browsing the shoe section at Outdoor Recreation, enticed by 30-percent discounts.

"It’s amazing. Well worth the wait. It’s like stateside," Cheri said.

Other facilities that opened for business Thursday were: Ramstein Tickets & Tours, The Sports Lounge, KMCC Ramstein Inn, Army and Air Force Exchange Service shoppette, and a car rental agency.

A bevy of food and other concessions, the AAFES base exchange and PowerZone, and a four-plex movie theater are due to open in phases in August and September. Those venues remain gated off to the public.

Guests at the new Ramstein Inn received water advisories this week. Recent random water samples taken throughout the KMCC indicate lead levels higher than that found in the source water. The tap water is still potable by U.S. and German standards, but guests and KMCC employees are being advised to let the water run for 10 to 15 seconds in the morning before using it for drinking or in-room hot drink preparation.

Doing this, testing shows, reduces the lead levels to well below Environmental Protection Agency safe drinking water requirements, according to the advisory.

Water experts continue to conduct tests and monitor the situation, officials said.

The KMCC has been a thorn in the side of the Air Force and Department of Defense, with the facility’s opening delayed for more than two years because of construction problems and difficulties managing an array of subcontractors.

author picture
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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