Fort Bragg officials will build a $3 million recreation facility at Smith Lake to improve the popular camping and swimming site at the east end of the military post.
The Smith Lake Recreation Center is one of two projects planned by the Fort Bragg Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Branch, according to Director Ray Lacey.
Neither project will be built with taxpayers’ money, Lacey said.
The Smith Lake Recreation Center will be funded by unrestricted funds, such as profits from Fort Bragg golf courses, bowling alleys and other on-station facilities. Boarding and pet grooming will be paid for with the money the post received from recycling brass casings and other materials.
Lacey said the Smith Lake Recreation Center would overlook the lake and add to what he called an underutilized recreation area centered on a 67-acre man-made lake.
“We still have a little hidden gem,” he said.
Smith Lake is off Honeycutt Road, but it is not behind any of the facility’s main gates and is easily accessible to members of the civilian public.
More than 40,000 people typically visit the Smith Lake Recreation Area each year, officials said. The recreation area includes cycling and hiking trails, playground equipment, and fishing and camping areas.
Smith Lake has also been a popular swimming spot and the site of Fort Bragg’s WakeZone Cable Park, which uses cables instead of boats to pull people across the water on skis. The cable park was one of four similar facilities in the United States when it opened in 1985. It remains the Army’s only cable park.
Smith Lake Beach and Cable Park did not open in 2017, after a lakeside dam failed during heavy rains from Hurricane Matthew in October 2016. The dam failure caused water level at least 20 feet to lake level.
Earlier this year, Fort Bragg officials said repairing the dam could cost more than $1 million, but they hoped the damage could be repaired by next summer.
Lacey said a repaired dam would help make the planned recreation center even more of a destination.
The 17,000 square foot facility will serve as a gathering place for service members and their families, as well as a venue for unit parties and events. Smith Lake already hosts some of these events each year. It also hosted Spartan races and the annual Fort Bragg Renaissance Fair.
Lacey said officials hope to start in the spring and complete the installation by summer 2019.
He said the new recreation center will continue a rejuvenation of Smith Lake that also included moving the equipment rental facility from Fort Bragg to the recreation area earlier this year. The Equipment Rental Center is where service members can rent sports equipment like kayaks and bikes, as well as other items.
The equipment rental facility was previously located near Knox Street and Gruber Road, which will become Fort Bragg’s new boarding and pet grooming facility, Lacey said. Instead of building a facility, Lacey said, the old equipment rental site will be renovated.
He said work is expected to begin this summer, with the facility opening in spring 2019.
“The design is complete,” Lacey said. “We just have to renovate the existing space.
Lacey said Fort Bragg has several dog parks — maintained by Corvias Military Living, the private company that operates and maintains accommodations at Fort Bragg — but nothing like boarding and grooming provided for pets.
Lacey said the facility would provide short-term day care and longer-term boarding for cats and dogs. Eventually, he said, the facility may also be able to care for pets while troops are deployed for longer periods.
At a Fort Bragg town hall earlier this year, officials said the new pet facility was part of a larger effort to add pet-friendly areas to post, while adding a new source revenue to support other programs in place.
A planned recreation area on the site of the former Willow Lakes golf course – near the site of Fort Bragg Field used to host a Major League Baseball game between the Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins in 2016 – will have pet-friendly jogging trails with toilet stations every quarter or half mile.
The planned multi-million dollar recreation area is expected to include nine youth sports fields and three adult sports fields to be connected to the Fort Bragg field, in addition to jogging events.
Fort Bragg officials have made a concerted effort in recent years to improve recreation and meeting facilities at the post.
In 2015, Fort Bragg opened the $17.5 million Iron Mike Conference and Dining Center, a nearly 50,000 square foot facility that has become the centerpiece of on-site gatherings and also hosts a daily lunch buffet. . This facility was also built without using taxpayers’ money.
Officials also announced a new entertainment complex that will include a movie theater, restaurants and retailers. The planned Freedom Crossing at Fort Bragg is expected to be built by the Army and Air Force Exchange Service sometime next year.
AAFES has also upgraded some of its Fort Bragg facilities in recent years, opening the 43,000 square foot Smoke Bomb Hill Express on Gruber and Reilly roads in 2016, which houses a convenience store and food court.
AAFES officials previously said other smaller projects were also planned for Fort Bragg.
AAFES, which is based in Dallas, self-funds the vast majority of its operations and donates about two-thirds of its profits to support programs at Fort Bragg and other military installations, including fitness centers. , child care, school lunch programs and other quality of life initiatives.
The planned Freedom Crossing in Fort Bragg will have room for 18 tenants in the 85,000-square-foot mall, officials said. At least 94% of this space has been pre-let, with tenants expected to include Smashburger, Chipotle, Bar Louie, Phillips Seafood, MOD Pizza, Great Clips and others. The complex would be anchored by an 11-screen first-run theater operated by Movie Tavern.
Officials estimated the cost of the project at $21 million to $23 million. It could come out of the ground in the spring. It is expected to create around 450 civilian jobs and also provide additional meeting and entertainment space.
Military Editor Drew Brooks can be reached at [email protected] or 486-3567.