FORT BENNING, GA — The new $19 million Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith Fitness Center in Fort Benning, GA, will serve as a model for the Army's future fitness facilities, according to a report from the U.S. Army.

The new center is the first built using criteria established by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' (USACE) Centers of Standardization. The centers develop templates for how future facilities look and can be tailored according to commanders' needs and what is already available on an installation. The 100,000-square-foot center was dedicated last month.

“We found installations had too many basketball courts and not enough aerobic space. We use standardized criteria rather than plans to get exactly what the installation needs, for instance, more weight rooms,” says Jay Clark, an architect for USACE's Engineering and Support Center in Hunstville, AL, which is responsible for standardization of fitness centers.

Corps of Engineers employees created the design with the help of local sports and fitness experts and the U.S. Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command (FMWRC).

“We worked with Fort Benning officials to resolve any issues that surfaced during construction,” Clark says. “For instance, the request for proposal did not specify the right type of aerobic flooring, so they came to us and we worked that issue.”

Planners also addressed anti-terrorism and force-protection issues.

“To get the image that we want to have in these new facilities but include some of the constraints we have in Army construction like force protection and energy conservation is very challenging, especially on tight budgets,” Clark says. “The structure has special reinforcing and special frames. The glass must meet certain requirements, too.”

Designers want the new fitness centers to look like the state-of-the-art facilities found at major universities and community centers. Amenities at the Fort Benning center include a 10,000-square-foot, two-story weight room with a cardio theater; a three-court gymnasium for basketball and volleyball; a natatorium with a lap pool, recreational pool and hot tub; a large aerobic room that can be divided into two rooms; and a women's weight room.

A similar, but larger, fitness center is being constructed with the same criteria at Fort Bliss, TX. Once completed, it will be the largest in the Army with approximately 120,125 square feet and five basketball courts.

“Fitness is critical for soldiers,” says Janet MacKinnon, fitness and aquatics program manager for FMWRC. “Within MWR, fitness facilities remain No. 1 in importance and actual use.”