[Editor’s note: Portions of this article were previously published.]
BRUNSSUM, Netherlands – Leadership from Installation Management Command – Europe joined a grand opening ceremony for the Hub, the Army’s premier open-concept indoor recreation facility, July 27 at its location at U.S. Army Garrison Benelux – Brunssum.
Tommy Mize, the director of IMCOM-E, and IMCOM-E Command Sgt. Maj. Samara L. Pitre joined a ribbon cutting ceremony with members of the garrison command team and a crowd of Brunssum Army community members.
“It’s an honor to deliver the Hub to the community today,” said Col. James Yastrzemsky, commander of USAG Benelux. “It’s a place to build and strengthen relationships, a place to break bread and gather with one another, share a beverage of choice. It’s a place to work out and sweat. It’s a place for moments that matter. And last, but not least, it’s a place to have fun. It truly is a place to create a home away from home.”
The Hub is a 38,750-square foot facility that houses in its open-concept space a restaurant, spaces to hold Family board game nights, an indoor playground for small children, a suite of virtual reality computer systems, and an artificial turf on which to play lawn games or watch a film on the Army’s largest television screen.
The open-concept space is only part of what the Hub offers. The facility also has a versatile indoor sports court, a physical fitness center, a bar, a slot casino, meeting spaces, two themed escape rooms, and long-term storage with 24-hour access.
With the U.S. Army Garrison Benelux’s move of its Netherlands-based operations from the former site at Schinnen to its Brunssum facilities in 2020 as part of the Army’s European Infrastructure Consolidation, the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (DFMWR) seized the opportunity to design from the foundation up a facility that can serve the military Family of today.
On the cutting edge, players can don virtual reality headgear, wield two handheld controllers, and navigate the globe. Spectators can see on a screen what the virtual reality user is doing from the VR user’s perspective. Another two virtual reality set-ups include chairs that can function as the seat in a car or the seat in a cockpit. Flight simulation and drivers testing are possible on these machines.
In the indoor sports court, there is a large projection system, which can turn into a large, physically interactive gaming system. Staff of the Hub can dim the lights, light up one of the walls, and play both educational and recreational games for students, who score points by throwing balls at images on the wall. The system has many programmable games that teach physics, math, nutrition and much more, all while engaging the players physically.
“We really wanted to focus on recreation that is current, and we think we’ve done that,” said Stacy Perez, director of USAG Benelux DFMWR. “The ultimate goal is to provide MWR services, of course under one roof that speaks to what Soldiers and Families want today.”
And oftentimes, service members and their Families simply wish to relax. There is a space to sit next to a hearth (with an artificial fire) and read. And there are a few spaces, where Families or friends can play classic low-tech board games, which MWR has stocked.
Also in the facility are a bar called The Mine, which is themed after the Staatsmijn Emma, a locally famous coalmine. Next door to that is a small casino containing slot machines.
“There’s something for everyone,” said Perez. “We’ve created an indoor park environment. And for those gloomy days, you can come in, and we’re going to brighten your day.”
Brian Cook is the facilities manager for the Hub. He oversees DFMWR operations at Brunssum. He said that although the facility has its precursors throughout the Army, this is the first of its kind.
“There are recreation centers that have food ops and programming rooms, but nothing with the size and scope of this one, where every last element of MWR is in one facility,” said Cook. “It is unique. It is a milestone for the Army.”
The Hub was scheduled to open in early 2020, but the onset of a global pandemic delayed the grand opening. Services within the Hub opened when COVID-19 prevention measures loosened, but the community never held a grand opening for the facility.
As part of the July 27, 2021 ceremony, community members played cornhole on the lawn area inside, played shuffleboard and board games in the Family area, donned virtual reality helmets, ate cake and drank coffee, and talked with one another.
To learn more about the Hub and other DFMWR services at USAG Benelux – Brunssum, visit https://brunssum.armymwr.com.