This article has been corrected.

VICENZA, Italy — There were no celebrities at the grand opening Monday of the youth center at the Villagio housing complex, but the excitement level was almost on a par with a VIP event.

Just ask Eric Weisel, coordinator of child, youth and school services, who managed to avoid getting trampled as the rush was on following the ribbon-cutting.

“It’s good to see they’re excited,” he said with a smile. “I actually had a few more things I was going to say, but …”

The $4.5 million facility is the latest in a series of projects designed to serve the growing youth population in the Vicenza community. It joins a child development center/school-age services complex and elementary and middle schools, which have opened since 2010.

“This place is well-timed,” said Col. Pedro Almeida, chief of staff for U.S. Army Africa and the keynote speaker at the ceremony.

He pointed to an influx of families and their children, thanks mainly to the relocation of elements of the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) from Germany over the summer.

According to the Department of Defense Education Activity, the number of school-age children in the community has grown by about 23 percent since 2011.

The youth center, which will eventually replace two older facilities, is presently designed for middle school students. It can house more than half the school’s 283 students after school and on weekends.

While at the center, kids can do homework in a room with computers, play video games, billiards, foosball or shuffleboard, or engage in sports in the gymnasium or facilities outside. There’s also an art room, dance studio and music room.

Eighth-grader Ariana Delgado noticed there are more guitars available than in the old center on the other side of the base.

“I’m teaching myself,” she said.

“But she knows she has to do homework first,” said her mother, Rocio. Weisel said there’s also a room for high-school-aged students, though the teen center on Caserma Ederle will remain open for the time being.

Corrrection Eric Weisel was misidentified in an earlier version of this article.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for 40 years.

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