Story and photos by Jack Wiers
U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public Affairs
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — The newly-opened Outdoor Recreation Center, here, has already increased the center’s space nearly two-fold, but new programs will keep the program in an expansion mode in the coming months.
Just five years ago, many senior officials of U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii’s Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation considered the program an afterthought. Then, ODR was focused primarily on rentals, such as kayaks and volleyballs.
When current program manager Shelly Leslie was asked how she would describe the dramatic rise of more than 500 percent in the number of Outdoor Recreation rentals, alone, since 2008, she squirmed a bit in her chair. While trying to be humble, she answered modestly in a word, “meteoric.”
The DFMWR program, besides renting sports supplies to customers, now provides weekend adventure programs and oversees the largest pet kennel facility in Hawaii and also the Wheeler Army Airfield’s paintball facility.
The Aug. 17 opening of the 7,888 square-foot main building, constructed with $7.1 million nonappropriated funds, or NAF revenue, signals a dizzying expansion of a once-modest rental operation.
How did this “meteoric” growth occur? Leslie offered a humbled and understated response.
“(We) have just been responsive to Soldier needs,” she said.
Those needs include providing hands-on instruction to provide customers with a true Hawaiian adventure experience.
“You can’t teach surfing in a building,” Leslie said.
The program’s rental roots have not been lost during the dizzying, overall program expansion, however. A new outdoor shed behind the main building features 5,000 square feet of covered protection. The shed allows a 40-percent increase in rental inventory of larger items, such as kayaks, surfboards, standup paddleboards and bicycles that are intended to meet growing customer demand.
“FMWR research shows strong support from Soldiers and our community for adventure programs and experiences,” said Michael Amarosa, director, DFMWR. “(Research) highlights our Outdoor Recreation services as a Soldier priority.”
New rapidly expanding initiatives include program support for Warrior Adventure Quest, or WAQ, a program that provides training and redeployment resiliency support through events, such as ocean adventures, the high ropes course and paintball.
More than 6,500 Soldiers, here, have participated in the WAQ.
The coming months for Outdoor Recreation will feature an official grand opening of the new building in January while a new 5,000 square foot, self-contained, inflatable paintball facility is scheduled to be available by October.
Further program expansion is continuing with the current assimilation and renovation of a nearby warehouse for additional housing of sports equipment rentals, while also being redesigned to provide additional retail and rental storefront capabilities.
Beyond the immediate future, the expansive visions for ODR continue, program officials indicate, fueled by the consistently growing demand by Soldiers and the community that is expected to carry forward.