New spring construction underway
By Capt. Keith Stevens, 354th Civil Engineer Squadron
/ Published February 27, 2007
EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --
Eielson's busy construction season starts this spring. As far as new construction goes, Eielson is about to be hit with the perfect storm. Rarely does a base experience three large, community-focused construction projects in a single year. Base personnel will see the beginnings of a new base exchange, chapel and fitness center addition all along Central Avenue commencing in a few months. All three facilities are slated to open in late summer or early fall of 2008. Eielson has also received approval to construct a new bowling center that should break ground in 2008 and be completed in 2009.
These facilities form the nucleus of the base's Community Central theme. The idea behind Community Central is to consolidate frequently visited facilities into one area. This provides easy and convenient access to services that personnel use every day, to include home merchandise, clothing, groceries and automotive services. This concept is similar to the familiar outdoor malls sprouting up in suburban communities throughout America.
The new exchange will be built across from the theater on Central Avenue on the site currently occupied by the old credit union and existing chapel, both scheduled for demolition this summer. It will be almost twice as large as the current facility and will include a food court and vendor area similar to what exists now. New to the building, however, will be military clothing sales, a shoppette and a service station with an adjoining car care center. Current plans are to close down the existing military clothing sales, shoppette and service station once the new facility is open. This consolidation provides efficient access of services currently located in three separate facilities which are spread across the base.
Many people are interested in the plans for the current exchange after the new facility is completed in fall 2008. The community central theme is the focus of this building's remodeling effort in order to relocate frequently used functions to one convenient facility. The existing interior space will be remodeled to provide modern, attractive areas for multiple tenant use. The post office, clothing cleaners, tickets and tours, arts and crafts, outdoor recreation, and the base library are slated to relocate into the remodeled building. New functions will include a book store, group activity area for activities such as laser tag or miniature golf, batting cages, massage salon, snack bar, party rooms, and a coffee shop. Portions of this plan have already started. The arts and crafts center is now in the process of relocating from the old credit union to an area off the hallway connecting the exchange and commissary. Construction is slated to start in two weeks, with doors schedules to open for business in late May of this year.
The new chapel will be built across from the Gold Rush Inn on Central Avenue on the site of the old security forces building. The site was selected to keep the chapel as a focal point for incoming personnel arriving to Eielson and to be easily accessible to permanent party Airmen and transient personnel.
The main worship area will be sized for 300 personnel, the only feature shared with the existing 53-year-old facility. The new building will incorporate properly sized classrooms necessary to provide in-house religious education classes. The existing undersized facility does not have sufficient classroom space, forcing classes to be held at various locations around the base. The 354th Civil Engineer Squadron, along with the Army Corps of Engineers, have selected a construction firm that specializes in worship facilities in order to obtain a modern, contemporary design that will be attractive and meet the Air Force's design intent for chapels.
Base personnel will also notice major changes occurring at the fitness center. The most noticeable change will be the addition of a large field house that will be built across from the medical clinic on Central Avenue. This field house will be connected to the existing facility and will contain a minimum one-eighth mile track and have sufficient floor space to host large group activities. This means there will be a large climate-controlled area for intramural sports such as flag football, indoor soccer, softball and field hockey during the harsh, cold winter months. The project will also provide a facelift to the current facility to provide better use of existing space and equipment.
The benefits of Eielson's new Community Central construction projects are many. There have been tremendous advances in construction methods and materials since the 1950s, the same decade when the existing fitness center, chapel and base exchange were built. All three projects will consolidate and centralize activities from multiple facilities currently spread across the base. In many instances, these projects will provide new services currently not available on base. Aside from the obvious conveniences these centralized facilities will provide, a more important benefit will be the enhanced environment the new chapel and fitness center improvements will provide for the spiritual and physical health of Eielson's Airmen and their families. Today's increased military operational tempo demands that Airmen and their families are ready to meet the rigor and stress of frequent and prolonged deployments. These projects will provide all Eielson personnel and their families access to modern and efficient facilities capable of providing the finest worship services, shopping experiences and fitness areas which are second to none.