FORT DRUM Post officials on Friday afternoon opened a new youth center, the final piece of a massive expansion and clustering of the posts child development buildings on the western side of post.
The new $8.2 million, 25,500-square-foot facility completes an eight-year, $45 million building plan that has seen the development of five permanent and temporary centers, along with large-scale field renovations. The placement makes it accessible to much of the posts family housing and allows facilities to share staff.
Karin S. Sikirica, Child and Youth Services service coordinator, who developed the plan with the help of Rebecca L. Morgia, the offices program operation specialist, said the effort to improve child care and youth programs fit an installation that sees a large number of its soldiers deployed.
This is a thank you to the community in a lot of ways, Ms. Sikirica said.
The new center features an expansive lounge, kitchen, computer lab, homework area, art and music spaces, and a large gymnasium, which included multiple basketball courts and a rock climbing wall. A BMX track connected to the center will be ready in the spring.
During the grand opening, teenagers and their parents could be seen playing foosball or pool in the lounge, or watching TV in a high-school-aged lounge. In the gym, the Carthage High School step team was the first to perform in the newly opened gym.
This is probably the best facility Ive ever had, said Steven Ferguson, the offices program director. There are unlimited possibilities for what we can do here.
Harold E. Greer, director of the posts Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation office, said the post now can handle 97 percent of the child care needs of its soldiers, a number that should rise when renovations at a neighboring center are complete. He said the Armys standard is 80 percent and that most installations cover about 70 percent of demand.
Col. Gary A. Rosenberg, garrison commander, called the figure a feather in the cap for the post.
One of the speakers during a ribbon-cutting ceremony, Elizabeth M. Kolodgy, 17, said she had been in the posts youth programs since moving here with her family in 2001. She said when she first arrived there werent too many people involved in the programs, but she has seen growth over time.
Its just a big change, she said.
The Indian River High School senior noted she would only have a few months to enjoy the center before she graduates. She said she was interested in attending the Air Force Academy or enrolling in an Air Force ROTC program after she graduates.
Its good I get to be a part of it, she said.
She lead a tour with Child and Youth Service staff for division leadership through the facility. Stopping at the music room, she showed how it has a series of stations to listen to music and a booth where youths will be able make music and put it on CDs.
Im gonna make some music in here, said Maj. Gen. Mark A. Milley, post and 10th Mountain Division commander. He drew some laughs when he squished his face up against the glass of the music booth.
Col. Rosenburg said the amount of time and funding placed in the development of the combined child development projects shows its importance to division leadership.
Its one thing to say something, he said. The proof is in the action.