American Forces Network-Kaiserslautern has returned to Vogelweh, following a $4 million renovation project that’s created two state-of-the-art radio studios, a television studio and new workspace for its broadcasters and support staff.
On Monday, AFN Kaiserslautern officially reopens its 5th Avenue facility. Local Army and Air Force leaders will take part in a ribbon cutting ceremony and on-air radio broadcasts to mark the occasion.
Already, AFN staff members are excited about working there, said Senior Airman Victoria Secrist, host of the AFN Kaiserslautern’s popular midday radio show.
“When I first came in here, I was blown away. This is the most beautiful facility that I’ve ever worked in,” Secrist said. “It’s all brand new.”
Major highlights are the two new radio studios, one blue and one red. They have soundproof doors and double pane glass to keep the music and DJ’s chatter inside. Offset lighting splashes off brightly painted walls. The studio mixing boards are connected to a computer where music playlists are stored.
In the new workspace, office dividers offer privacy to AFN staff, tall windows let in sunlight and the atmosphere makes Secrist feel more professional, she said.
“Everyone is really happy about being here,” Secrist said. “Plus, we’re right near the gym, Subway, the bowling alley and the commissary.”
The reopening coincides with AFN Kaiserslautern celebrating its 60th anniversary. On Dec.14, 1953, the first broadcasts aired from a van on Kleber Kaserne. In 1954, AFN Kaiserslautern moved into the Vogelweh facility — the first of its kind in Europe designed specifically for AFN, said Jerry Cormier, AFN Kaiserslautern’s operations manager.
Over the years, simple renovations were made, including a new wing in the 1990s. By 2006, when redesign talks first began, renovations were long overdue. The cramped uninsulated building with tiny heaters had grown into a real maze, where guests wandered through the kitchen to get to the studios, Cormier said. Meanwhile, the U.S. military has consolidated forces into just a few enduring bases, including the KMC.
“We knew this community was going to be here and that AFN was going to remain a part of it,” Cormier said. “Our strategic goal was to make this a happy workplace, to foster creativity.”
When broadcasters have a good workspace and the latest technology, its shows in their work, said Army Sgt. Austin Majors, who oversees AFN Kaiserslautern’s news gathering operation. AFN Kaiserslautern recently gained more staff, so the space is a welcomed relief, he said.
“Being in a facility like this raises our morale and it’s going to affect our products, what they see and hear on our broadcasts,” Majors said. “Hopefully, we’ll get that much better at what we do.”
For those close to the project, the reopening ends a lengthy process. Planning began seven years ago. Construction, which started three years ago, was initially projected to last just nine months. But, the project faced challenges, from design and funding to actual construction. During the renovation, AFN Kaiserslautern broadcast from temporary studios on the Air Force base in Einsiedlerhof.
The renovation will help AFN Kaiserslautern reach its goal of becoming the top media community for America’s defense conversation, said Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Wesley Fleming, AFN Kaiserslautern’s station manager.
“We want to be a part of the community, to listen to what they want to talk about and hear about and we want to respond accordingly,” Fleming said.