NEWPORT, RI. (NNS) -- The John H. Chafee Fitness Center at Naval Station Newport, the installation's newest facility, was dedicated Aug. 15 in a ceremony honoring the memory of former U.S. Senator John H. Chafee of Rhode Island.
The late Sen. Chafee (1922-1999) served as an enlisted Marine in World War II, a captain during the Korean War, 66th governor of Rhode Island, Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV)and as a U.S. Senator.
Sen. Chafee's son, Lincoln Chafee, currently the Governor of Rhode Island, was the guest speaker.
"Throughout his life, my dad was a strong advocate for good physical health," said Chafee.
"Of all his accomplishments in his role as Secretary of the Navy, my father was most proud of what he was able to do to improve quality of life for those serving in the Navy and their families," said Chafee. "His focus was making improvements such as this state-of-the-art facility for Navy personnel that will be used for generations."
The new $36 million facility, constructed to LEED Silver standards, replaces an outdated Quonset-style gymnasium facility, Gym 109, which was built in 1942 and an inefficient swimming pool, Pool 307, located on Coddington Point.
"You look at the environmental initiatives that are underway within the Department of Defense - from the Great Green Fleet to wind turbines - and I am certain that Governor Chafee's father would be proud," said Capt. Douglas Mikatarian, commanding officer, Naval Station Newport.
"The former SECNAV Chafee's legacies of support and dedication to the military, as well as the environment, were primary reasons for us to pursue him as the namesake of this facility," Mikatarian said.
The facility, operated by the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) department at NAVSTA Newport, features state of the art temperature controls, low flow water fixtures, and EPA recommended paint.
Workmen were able to recycle approximately 75 percent of the materials through the project.
The Chafee Fitness Center features a six-lane swimming pool; a two-lane 1/12 mile indoor track; and 66,000 square feet of recreational, administrative, locker room, and wash room spaces.
The new facility has been open since April 2013 and is the center piece of the of the installation averaging 1,200 patrons per weekday when all the schools are in session. Patrons include active duty, family members, retirees, and civil servants.
The ceremony was attended by more than 200 students and staff, and that included representatives from the R.I. congressional delegation, veterans groups, and local dignitaries.
A portrait of a young John H. Chafee at age 39 was unveiled during the ceremony.
Mikatarian acknowledged the diligence of the NAVFAC/Newport Public Works team for their management of the construction and demolition contracts associated with the new fitness center.
"The MWR team, who are extremely dedicated and hardworking, oversaw a complicated transition from one outdated facility into this new facility with ease and minimal disruption to the hundreds that rely on a gym every day," he said.
A commemoration fun run was held prior to the start of the ceremony led by members of the MWR fitness staff.
As part of the farewell to the old gym, staff members carried a national flag that was used nearly 70 years ago when gymnasium 109 was dedicated.
Participating in the run was a contingent of 125 students and staff from the Naval War College, Navy Supply Corps School, NAVSTA Newport, and members of the installation's CPO-Select Class of 2014.
Sen. Chafee was honored in 2003 when the guided missile destroyer (DDG 90) was named the USS Chafee in a commissioning ceremony at Naval Station Newport's Pier 2.
"What a perfect building to house this fitness center," said Zachariah Chafee, Sen. Chafee's brother. "He believed in physical fitness."
The old gym, located adjacent to the new fitness center, is scheduled to be demolished.
Following the indoor portion of the ceremony, Chafee family members were led to the front entrance of the fitness center where the main signage for the facility was unveiled.
The facility was built by Consigli Construction of Milford, Mass.; and subcontracted to many Rhode Island-based businesses that provided jobs to numerous R.I. residents.