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Balloons are released as the ribbon is cut and patrons rush into the new Morale, Welfare and Recreation complex at Naval Air Station Sigonella on Friday.

Balloons are released as the ribbon is cut and patrons rush into the new Morale, Welfare and Recreation complex at Naval Air Station Sigonella on Friday. (Jason Chudy / S&S)

Balloons are released as the ribbon is cut and patrons rush into the new Morale, Welfare and Recreation complex at Naval Air Station Sigonella on Friday.

Balloons are released as the ribbon is cut and patrons rush into the new Morale, Welfare and Recreation complex at Naval Air Station Sigonella on Friday. (Jason Chudy / S&S)

Seaman Josh McCullough, of the base dental clinic, left, sits and talks with Seaman Jonathan “Big Bear” Maenner at the new Sigonella base pool.

Seaman Josh McCullough, of the base dental clinic, left, sits and talks with Seaman Jonathan “Big Bear” Maenner at the new Sigonella base pool. (Jason Chudy / S&S)

The new Sigonella bowling center at Midtown Morale, Welfare and Recreation complex, which also features a two-screen movie theater, swimming pool and gym, complete with indoor running track and climbing wall. (enw# 61p pp)

The new Sigonella bowling center at Midtown Morale, Welfare and Recreation complex, which also features a two-screen movie theater, swimming pool and gym, complete with indoor running track and climbing wall. (enw# 61p pp) (Jason Chudy / S&S)

A young girl splashes into the pool after a quick trip down one of two water slides at the new Naval Air Station Sigonella pool.

A young girl splashes into the pool after a quick trip down one of two water slides at the new Naval Air Station Sigonella pool. (Jason Chudy / S&S)

SIGONELLA, Sicily — The ceremonial ribbon-cutting for the new Midtown recreation facility at Naval Air Station Sigonella wasn’t nearly as much fun as the unceremonial first run down the base’s two new waterslides.

But the few minutes that people had to wait for the ribbon-cutting seemed to be well worth it as the $28 million, 90,000-square-foot facility officially opened Friday afternoon, just in time to catch the majority of the base residents getting off from work for the weekend.

The new Morale, Welfare and Recreation facility, which sits just about “mid town” on the NAS I base is the centerpiece of the base’s construction boom, which has included a new Navy Exchange and Commissary, and an administrative and community center complex.

The facility was completed four months ahead of schedule, public works officer Capt. Bob Gibbs said during his ribbon-cutting remarks. It includes the new base gym — complete with a rock climbing room — outdoor swimming pool, two movie theaters and a bowling alley.

“In this place everyone can come and get their game on, for real,” said Seaman Shelby Graham as he and a handful of middle-school-aged children took turns playing the El Dorado coin game in the new video game room. All around the room, quarters were being pumped into video games at regular intervals by sailors and kids alike.

The smell of fresh popcorn mixed with the smell of hot pizza at the nearby snack bar, which on one side serves the theater and on the other the bowling alley. The bowling lane’s neon lights were set low, and a fog machine occasionally belched out a cloud of white smoke to add to the atmosphere.

The bowling alley makes up the northwest corner of the U-shaped building, with the base gym taking up the entire eastern portion of the complex. Along the facility’s southern side is an open, multistory glass area with a handful of tables and chairs.

Outside, in what would be the center of the “U” is the pool, complete with two waterslides.

Seaman Josh McCullough, of the base dental clinic, sat bare-chested on a lounge chair in front of the pool with a couple of friends. They arrived shortly after the ribbon-cutting.

“This is great right here,” he said. “There’s no other place I’d rather be on a Friday afternoon than right here.”

The pool seemed to be equally filled with groups of parents and children and groups of sailors. It seems the base has, for a while at least, found something that appeals to its entire population.

“Yeah, we’re staying [on base] tonight and that’s unusual,” said McCullough. “[The facility] is 10 times, times, times, times better than the other place was. There’s a lot more stuff to do here for the enlisted [single sailors].”

While some single sailors think that the facility was constructed just for them, those with families are quick to claim that it’s all theirs.

“This is awesome,” said family member Mary Williams, who’s been at the air station since 2000.

“People should appreciate being in Sigonella. ... This is state-of-the-art. It’s just like in the U.S.”


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