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At least $500 million has been spent since 9/11 on renovating Guantanamo Bay
"If they give us the thumbs-up, then we go," said Army Col. Greg Fewer, the deputy director of operations at the courthouse complex. "We just need to be ready."
'Improving the quality of life'
The troops at Guantanamo Bay are stranded on this patch of parched land for anywhere from four months to two years. Commanders have tried to make the base seem like home.
Nowhere is that more evident than at the Cooper Field complex along Sherman Avenue. With a pair of top-of-the-line baseball diamonds and a football field as its centerpiece, the complex looks like a high-end park in a U.S. resort town.
The Navy Morale, Welfare and Recreation Department has spent $7.3 million on the baseball and football fields, $164,000 for a skate park, $97,000 on a roller-hockey rink and $60,000 for a batting cage. Soon to come: a soccer cage for $20,000.
Near the skate park is the go-kart track, completed in 2006. The Pentagon said it spent $296,000 to build the track; the official base newspaper, the Guantanamo Bay Gazette, reported that it cost $400,000.
"This will be a great step in improving the quality of life for the entire community," Craig Basel, the then-recreation director, said during the ribbon-cutting.
But the go-karts rarely worked. The six cars are battery-powered and can barely hold a charge, faltering after one or two laps around the course. After numerous failures, the track was shut down last month. The cars are now covered with tarps.
"They've been incredibly difficult to maintain," said Tara Culbertson, the current recreation director.
Burns and Roe and the Dick Corp., now called Dck Worldwide, joined forces to form BRDC, which built the welcome signs, the volleyball court, the go-kart track, the KFC/Taco Bell restaurant, the Starbucks cafe, many of the playgrounds and other projects. Together, the three contractors were paid $125 million.
"We are very proud of the work that we are doing in Guantanamo Bay supporting our military," spokeswoman Laurie Bowers said. "The projects that BRDC have been awarded were either competitively bid or negotiated using an industry standard pricing database as stipulated by our contract."
Surrounding the Cooper Field complex are housing developments and military barracks and neighborhoods filled with suburban tract homes. During the past nine years, the Pentagon has spent more than $114 million renovating and remodeling the housing projects.
Julie Hall, a civilian project manager, has been at the base for 18 years, on and off. Before the Sept. 11 attacks, she said, Guantanamo Bay was "completely asleep."