FORT BLISS, TX — To accommodate an influx of soldiers at Fort Bliss, El Paso, TX, the Army opened its largest fitness facility to date last month — the Joshua W. Soto Physical Fitness Facility.

Fort Bliss is expecting 24,000 active duty soldiers on post by December, an increase from 9,300 soldiers in 2005.

“It's all about the additional troops we're receiving — we're basically tripling our number of troops,” Eric Hildreth says about the Army's decision to build a large fitness facility. Hildreth is the Family and MWR Sports director and assistant director of the Community Recreation Division at Fort Bliss.

The $22 million, 96,000-square-foot facility, dedicated last month, was named in honor of Joshua W. Soto, who died last summer during a roadside bombing incident in Iraq. He was a member of 1st Battalion, 77th Armor Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division. Soto's widow, Thelma, and 2-year-old son, Jayden, were on hand to cut the ribbon at the dedication ceremony.

The facility includes $2 million worth of fitness equipment. It has a 10,000-square-foot weight room with 25 tons of support weights. It also features a spin room that accommodates 60 bikes and a cardio room large enough to house 60 treadmills, 60 ellipticals, 20 stair steppers and 10 rowing machines. The facility includes an indoor 1/10th-mile running track, a combatives room, two basketball courts, a fitness assessment room, a concession area, and locker rooms and showers that can accommodate 130 people at a time.

A 57,000-square-foot aquatics center, slated to open in fiscal year 2012, is in the planning and design phase. Hildreth says the four indoor swimming pools that are planned could host military training in the mornings and recreational swimming in the afternoons.