New Bern, NC – If military spending in eastern North Carolina is any indication the economy may be looking brighter. Major expansion projects broke ground this week at a local military base.
COLE- RECOGNIZE "If you come to Marine Corp Air Station New River this time next year, you will not recognize it."
Of the 23 projects currently underway at New River, 22 are expected to be completed by the end of the year. The exception is the construction of what's being called a mega hangar that will hold dozens of the 57 foot V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. The $140 million dollar facility, paid for by military construction funds, is slated to be finished in 2014. When the hangar is completed, about 750 additional personnel from squadrons currently based at Cherry Point will relocate down the road to New River, increasing the Onslow County air station's military population by an estimated 10 percent. Facilities manager for New River Doss Comer says the new hangar will be the Marine Corp's largest single structure building.
HANGER "The hanger will build spaces for four V-22 Squadrons. We'll move those squadrons in there. That'll open up space for two Cherry Point squadrons to come occupy. When those two squadrons arrive from Cherry Point with their aircraft, we will have almost 58 percent of all 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing at New River."
While the aim of that project is to improve base operations, Fitness director with Marine Corp Community Services Richard Cole says other projects will focus on enhancing the quality of life for Marines and their families aboard New River. As Maries return from serving overseas, they may experience post-traumatic stress, making adjusting to life stateside difficult. Cole says the quality of life projects in the works at New River will help make the transition easier.
TRANSITION "We're really trying to address the capabilities of the command and the resiliently of the effort for DOD (Department of Defense) data to make sure the transition back from a war footing to a peace time footing hopefully is smooth and transparent to as many military families as possible."
Expanded offerings include a new $14 million dollar fitness center. The 47-thousand square foot facility will house an Olympic-sized indoor swimming pool, basketball court, a climbing wall, and weight room. The fitness center is slated to open in a couple of months. Fitness director Cole says the plan also includes moving the existing athletic field closer to the Douglass Gate, and building a new football and soccer complex.
BASEBALL "It's going to have a Babe Ruth sized field, two youth sized baseball fields youth baseball and softball which will be major and minor sized and it will have a t-ball field. Additionally, it will have a regulation sized football soccer field and a storage area with a snack bar."
And with the popularity of extreme sports, the base will open the largest skate park in eastern North Carolina this May. The skate park will include two half pipes, two quarter pipes, two sliding ramps and a bowl. Cole says the new skateboard park will NOT be open to the public.
SKATEBOARD "Its something that a lot of kids on base like to do, you'll see them going up and down the roads up and down the running paths on their skateboards."
And the skate park is not just for kids Cole says extreme sports help Marines cope with life back home. (PAUSE) The community center is also getting a facelift. $2.9 million dollars will help toward renovating the waterfront building.
CENTER "That's going to add about 2,000 feet of usable space. It'll have two fireplaces and an internal sound system. It's also going to create two sand volleyball courts, horseshoe pits that are ADA accessible and a small outdoor amphitheater area so that people can watch the volleyball or horseshoe games going on in a recreational setting."
Other improvements for Marine Corp Air Station New River include roadway projects to ease traffic congestion, a childcare development center expansion, an indoor shooting range, a bowling alley and theater renovations.
OVERSEAS "A Marine that is in Afghanistan or overseas somewhere this year, when he comes back will be amazed at the type of family and military recreational programs and services that will offered here. "
In 2008, Marine Corps Installations East- which includes Camp Lejeune, Cherry Point, New River and Beaufort SC. - announced a surge of 40,000 service people and their families coming into eastern North Carolina. The expansion currently underway aboard New River is an effort to keep up with the growing military population. To see a sketch of the Athletic Center and Skate park projects, which will both be completed in May, visit our website, publicradioeast.org.