With the doors prepared to open Thursday for a portion of the Kaiserslautern Military Community Center, members of the 435th Services Squadron busily prepare to open new venues and complete the transition of several facilities to the new location.
“This is an incredible complex that has a great deal to offer,” said Lt. Col. Dawn Lancaster, 435th SVS commander. “There is nothing else like it in our military communities and we look forward to being able to provide more services for all our customers in one great location.”
Base officials will host the first phase of openings Thursday, including 435th SVS facilities – the visitor’s quarters, Ramstein Tickets and Tours, Outdoor Recreation, Romano’s Macaroni Grill and the Ramstein Sports Lounge – as well as the Shoppette and Wasgau German bakery.
The Services facilities will be open for an open house beginning Thursday afternoon following a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10:30 a.m. and all-day Friday. On both days, patrons are invited to take advantage of special promotions and enter giveaways at each of the venues.
Continuing construction efforts take up several of the larger KMCC parking lots, so guests are advised to look for signs that will direct traffic to approved parking areas for the opening events.
Remaining venues to open in phases throughout the summer include the concessionaire mall, food court, the four-plex movie theater, Sixt Car Rental and a barber shop.
What to expect inside
The KMCC is an 844,000-square-foot shopping, entertainment and dining facility, combined with an eight-story visiting quarters tower with 350 rooms. For size comparison, it has the same amount of space as one-third of the leasable area in America’s largest enclosed mall – Minnesota’s Mall of America. It’s also about 15 times the size of the White House.
“This is the first time the Army and Air Force Exchange Service has teamed up with the Air Force Services Agency to put everything together,” said Tom Gross, KMCC exchange general manager.
The center will also include many conveniences typical for a mall environment, including a playground, bank and credit union branch offices with several ATMs, a barber shop and styling salon, more than six public restrooms, four elevators, two escalators and a bookstore with sit-down cafe.
Dining options will include most of what’s currently available at the Ramstein food court, but will also contain Captain D’s Seafood Kitchen, Manchu Wok Chinese cuisine, Hofbräu Haus, Johnny Rockets American style food, Romano’s Macaroni Grill, Wasgau German bakery and the Ramstein Sports Lounge.
Shopping will also be more convenient by collocating AAFES and Services offerings at the KMCC, Mr. Gross said. Not only will the need to visit two bases for various shops disappear, but big ticket items, except large furniture, will be available for pick up at the KMCC. Currently, AAFES customers need to journey to Einsiedlerhof or elsewhere to pick up some items they ordered on base.
In addition to shops that are currently available at the local exchanges, the facility will host several concept shops, including S. Oliver, Victoria’s Secret, Nike, Under Armour, Jack Wolfskin, Coach, Northface, Vera Bradley and Nintendo. Other concession shops include The Body Shop, Swarovski Crystal, Oakley, Polish Pottery, Harley Davidson, Exchange New Car Sales and a day spa, among others.
Customer service and information desks will be located in the center of the AAFES area, and there will be surveillance and security patrols throughout the facility.
“The facility itself looks more similar to a commercial shopping mall than the current base exchange or other services buildings in the area,” said Jerry Hudson, deputy chief of the 435th SVS. “The design was created to be environmentally friendly and includes enormous glass domes and facades to allow maximum light into the facility. The increased use of daylight reduces the number of lights required to illuminate common areas, helping reduce use of electricity.”
Large corridors provide ample space for visitors to window shop without blocking other foot traffic. The seven customer entrances provide easy access to various locations within the building from the several parking lots just outside.
Window to Rheinland-Pfalz
While the KMCC offers many American conveniences, it also provides a great deal of information about the unique off-base activities and programs available within the greater community, thanks to the “Window to Rheinland-Pfalz” information center.
“The Window to Rheinland-Pfalz – Ramstein Gateway, which is a prominent display and information point inside the KMCC, offers people an opportunity to explore the culture that surrounds them,” said Barb Felden, chief of the 86th Airlift Wing Host Nation Office. “We have worked closely with the representatives of the State and Municipal Cooperative who are responsible for the concept to present an idea of what’s around to help both visitors and KMC residents make the most of their time in Germany.”
The center, which will also open in early July, is located on the main floor near RTT and the Shoppette and will be staffed by employees from the local cooperative – consisting of the state government, the City and County of Kaisers-lautern and the City of Ramstein-Miesenbach.
“The Window to Rheinland-Pfalz is not only a great resource for KMC residents and transient visitors, but also serves as a symbol of the strong bond we share with our host nation partners,” said Brig. Gen. Bill Bender, KMC commander. “This is another great example of how they continue to welcome us into their communities and open their doors to our servicemembers and families, and we’re glad it’s such a prominent part of the KMCC.”
Just like any other major shopping facility, parking and traffic is an issue not only for
customers, but also base officials. The 435th Civil Engineers Squadron have completed extensive research and planning to mitigate
nightmare shopping scenarios that may have shoppers worried.
“We understand the need for ample parking and we focused much of our effort toward calculating the right number the customer base we expect to serve,” said Col. Gus Green, 435th Air Base Wing vice commander. “Nobody wants to sit in traffic or fight for a parking spot to be able to take advantage of this great facility, so we’ve drawn our plans accordingly and we’ll continue to evaluate traffic as it becomes operational.”
Scott Vincent, chief of the Programs Flight for the 435th CES, said once all of the venues are open in the fall, there will be 2,800 parking spaces available at the KMCC.
That number means there are more than double the amount of spots currently available at the Ramstein and Vogelweh exchange facilities combined.
About 245 of the 2,800 spaces will be reserved and marked for the handicapped, expectant mothers, lodging guests, government vehicles, KMCC employees and ranking military members. A small number of other spaces for short-term parking of up to 30 minutes will provide easy access to Outdoor Recreation, garden and bulk purchase pick-up sections. The remaining 2,500 spots will be available on all sides of the building and are accessible when coming from any direction on base.
To ease congestion, the approach from each direction already has traffic circles in place, and additional construction projects underway should help reduce potential traffic jams. The Lincoln and Kisling circle, currently under construction near the Northside Chapel and USAFE headquarters building, is a large traffic circle designed to help keep traffic flowing in the area. Road signs have been posted to provide directions to the facility entrances, exits and other base locations.
And the work will not necessarily stop here, Mr. Vincent said.
“We have a study planned to look at traffic patterns and volume after the KMCC has been open for a few months,” he said. “That may lead us to look at other projects and new improvements.”
Future of other facilities
Due to the consolidation of so many facilities and services, additional changes will be made to several buildings throughout the KMC.
Concurrent with scheduled openings at the KMCC, the base exchange and some other operations at Vogelweh will close in September. In addition, other planned closures at Vogelweh include the BXTRA, Power Zone, food court, furniture store and exchange concessions. Exchange New Car Sales will relocate to the Vogelweh Shoppette area and the Power Zone will reopen in the KMCC.
Pending congressional approval, a new high school and sports complex will be built where the current exchange is located. The Pulaski Shoppette and gas station will also be converted to a small module base exchange with a larger stock of items than typically found in a Shoppette.
“Though there are a lot of things moving off of Vogelweh, with the improvements we can make for our students, it’s no comparison,” Colonel Green said. “We will be allowing the school system to provide valuable upgrades to the 60-year-old classrooms they’re using.”
Other planned closures include the Hercules and Nightingale theaters on Ramstein, which will cease operations in August when the four-plex movie theater opens in the KMCC.
Hercules Theater will still be available for mass briefings and no changes are expected for the Galaxy Theater on Vogelweh.
The Subway restaurant in the Ramstein passenger terminal is also scheduled to discontinue service, but transient passengers will be able to walk across the street to the KMCC, where flight information monitors in the sports lounge will provide constant updates on aircraft arrivals and departures.
An area that all KMCC vendors continue to focus on is employment. Both AAFES and Services are currently hiring for a wide variety of positions ranging from food service to retail. Family members, local nationals and servicemembers seeking extra income are encouraged to apply.
“This facility has opened up a tremendous employment opportunity for our host nation partners as well as our military families,” Colonel Green said. “Between all of the vendors, AAFES and SVS, several hundred U.S. and local national employees have already been hired and we have additional job fairs scheduled in the coming weeks.”
For more information on employment
opportunities or facilities hours at the KMCC, visit the AAFES and 435th SVS Web sites at www.AAFES.com or www.435thservices.com.