RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany --
The third and final phase of the Kaiserslautern Military Community Center is set to open Monday with a ribbon cutting ceremony that will formally begin operations at the largest base exchange in the world.
The newest Army and Air Force Exchange Service store is scheduled to open to customers at 9 a.m. and an enlarged AAFES staff will be on hand to welcome the first customers into the 165,000 square-foot store.
The store itself is 35,000 square-feet bigger than AAFES' current largest store at Ft. Campbell, Ky.
The large size comes with good reason. The store is a prominent feature of the KMCC, a traditional one-stop shopping center designed to bring military members overseas the experience of an American mall with a European flair. At Ramstein, that means serving a customer base of about 53,000 servicemebers, civilians and family members who live in the local area, in addition to the 285,000 transient visitors a year.
The size is not even the most impressive thing about the store, although walking from one side to the other and back is about the distance of one kilometer, according to Tom Gross, Army and Air Force Exchange Services KMC Exchange general manager. The most impressive thing, he says, is what they offer in all that space.
Offered in the new exchange are 43 different concept shops, which are areas featuring unique fixtures and goods associated with big name brands.
The location and convenience are also features unique to the newest store.
"It is the only AAFES with a hotel connected to the store, and its right across from the Air Mobility Command Passenger Terminal making it a convenient location for everyone," the general manager said. "It also has concept shops new to any AAFES in the world and a four-plex movie right above it."
Something visitors may be surprised to find is ongoing construction. Although the inside of the facility is complete and open to the public, some work on the exterior is being completed. Cranes, trailers and other equipment may still be located in the parking lot as the third phase opens.
If necessary, additional parking spots will be available in the lots near the old Ramstein exchange and the Northside Chapel while the equipment is present.
To help ensure parking and traffic are properly monitored, the 86th Security Forces Squadron will have patrols in the area of the KMCC.
"We understand that parking will be in high demand, but the installation traffic code and legal parking will be strictly enforced," said Lt. Col. Seth Frank, 86th SFS commander. "KMCC visitors that do not park legally, thus impeding traffic and creating safety issues, will be ticketed and towed."
Colonel Frank added that Security Forces will be out in force to monitor, evaluate, and assist with the KMCC traffic and parking situations.
Exactly how much traffic to expect is unknown, but if history repeats itself, the opening days will draw a sizeable crowd. The number of customers that visited the KMCC following the second phase opening exceeded all expectations.
"We had over 117,000 customers within the first 27 days of the food court opening," said Mr. Gross.
In fact, the opening was so successful that in just the first two days alone the food court served 11,055 customers.
To meet the expected demand, AAFES has spent months hiring new employees to supplement those workers transitioning from the Ramstien and Vogelweh stores. Those stores will close Sunday night and all exchange operations will be relocated to the KMCC for Monday.
Not all services are to be lost from the other locations, though.
Several food vendors including Popeyes and Burger King will remain open at Vogelweh and the shoppette is being converted into a small module BX, said Mr. Gross. Customers can even expect to find basic household items there.
"I like to use the example of someone just arriving and realizing they need a 220 volt iron -- come on down to the shoppette," said Mr. Gross. "If you have just arrived and don't have your household goods yet but need a shower curtain -- come on down."
AAFES is also offering a merchandise shuttle program that can deliver products such as televisions or other electronics not normally stocked at the shoppette. Delivery time to the shoppette is an average of two days if they are available at the KMCC, according to Mr. Gross.
Long term plans for the transition from Vogelweh will also provide another benefit to the KMC. The current exchange there is projected to be the site for a new Kaiserslautern High School, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. Work on that part of the project is expected to start in late 2011.
The phase three opening ceremony will begin at 8:55 a.m. inside the KMCC near the North side exchange entrance.
Check out the Ramstein Web site, www.ramstein.af.mil/kmcc.asp
, for the latest information on KMCC openings and details.