atago sports complexAaron Pylinski | Community Writer
New York City has Central Park, Chicago has Grant Park, Los Angeles has bad traffic, and Iwakuni now has the Atago Sports Complex.
Imagine a lush park with Dogwoods, picnic pavilions and plenty of open spaces for children to run and play. Imagine also the same venue with a baseball stadium packed with chanting fans and local rivalries facing off on the diamond. Think of a cultural center with a meticulously designed tea room, guests both U.S. and Japanese sitting down and enjoying a fellowship of cultural ideas.
This is the Atago Sports Complex. It is our city park, our place to engage the local populace and make good on our stewardship of the American people in Japan. It is ours, both American and Japanese. It is where we can come together for healthy competition or break bread but most importantly it belongs to all of us.
Fixed atop the Atago Mountain the complex is just a 10-minute drive from the Monzen Gate and is a sports and a cultural facility that everyone living in the Iwakuni area can enjoy year round.
There is no denying that life on station can sometimes feel like swimming around in a fishbowl. It’s a walking base, or so it is said, and with that comes that small town feeling. There are a number of places within the confines of the station for all of us to rest and relax but we’re still peeking over the fence to see what’s available out in town. The Kizuna Stadium is open now, but the Atago Sports Complex will fully open this summer in our own backyard and we’ll all have a place to diverge and enjoy.
To get a better idea of what the complex is today means we have to take a step back in time to realize the station and its expansion. It all started when the airfield spread out a mile into the Aki-nada inland sea.
Through the Defense Policy Review Initiative (DPRI) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Japan District (USACED-J) in conjunction with host nation construction companies and the local government, the top of Atago Mountain was blasted off, put on trucks and conveyors and taken to the sea. This created new real estate for aircraft to land and a potential location for a shared use facility on a freshly shaved mountain top.
The complex will be completed in two phases. Phase one consists of the Kizuna baseball stadium and two softball fields which opened to the public last November.
Phase two has a 400-meter track and field, as well as outdoor courts for basketball, sand volleyball, and tennis courts. Additionally, it has picnic pavilions, playgrounds, jogging paths, and a cultural center.
SOFA personnel are exempt from any usage or occupancy fees upon presentation of their DoD ID cards but the local populace will pay a fee for usage.
With the complex near completion, USACED-J is almost ready to hand over the keys to MCCS and IHA, creating an extension of Semper Fit and unleashing the full potential of this long coming public recreation area.
According to MCCS Director, John Kasperski, "We want to start migrating MCCS activities up to Atago, such as music festivals, sporting events, and youth clinics.”
With keys in hand, MCCS will handle the day-to-day operations in direct collaboration with the city of Iwakuni.
"We want to start migrating MCCS activities up to Atago, such as music festivals, sporting events, and youth clinics."
Our personnel will be assigned to work within the complex’ administrative office to assist SOFA status customers and Iwakuni city employees in making reservations. We will use the facilities to host recreational events as well as maintain and prepare the facilities that are assigned to us like the outdoor sport fields.
The complex is not just an extension of the station and our programs, it is also a great venue to host community relation events with local residents. There are plans for youth sports events including games between U.S. and local Japanese teams.
There’s more than just softball fields and a baseball stadium at Atago Mountain, there is also a shared use cultural center, which is a focal point for the community relations involved.
“The complex is a key resource to help maintain a positive relation with the local population,” said John Zambrano, the Government & External Affairs Officer for S-7.
The cultural center contains multipurpose rooms, a classroom for cooking, and a ceremonial tea room. It also has a gymnasium with an elevated jogging track and shower rooms. Reservations can be requested by visiting the Atago Sports Complex Administrative Office or by calling 0827-35-5089 between the hours of 8 AM - 9 PM. The administrative office can also be reached by sending an email to [email protected]
To reserve a room at the cultural center, a Reservation Request Form must be submitted. The Reservation Request Form is available at the Atago Sports Complex Administrative Office. Any individual or group can make same day walk-in and up to 30-day advanced reservations for any room that is not already reserved.
So when we're looking for someplace to enjoy time with our loved ones we now have a place of our own to extend past the fences of the base and stretch our legs. And when the local populace needs a venue to help strengthen the bonds of our relationship we can all sit together in the presence of Dogwoods and enjoy all that the Atago Sports Complex has to offer.
"The complex is a key resource to help maintain a positive relation with the local population."
What's coming up at the Atago Spots Complex?
Intramural Sports / Semper Fit:
Japan / U.S. Modified Fast Pitch Softball Tournament
The event is scheduled for April 28 from 10 AM - 5 PM.
Japan / U.S. Modified Fast Pitch Softball Tournament
The event is scheduled for June 30.
Hiroshima Carp vs. Hanshin Tigers
The event is scheduled for April 21.
Who had a hand in the creation of the Atago Sports Complex?
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Japan District (USACED-J)
Oversaw the coordination of host nation contractors and U.S. construction from start to finish.
“The construction project was a bilateral agreement, a team effort, between the United States and host nation contractors working in a harmonious relationship to finish the project on time.”
- Ernie B. Lambinicio, Civil Engineering Technician,
Department of the Army Quality Assurance Representative
Defense Policy Review Initiative (DPRI):
Responsible for the entire programming, planning effort, designed effort with many of the stakeholders from the Army Corps of Engineers to host nation/city representatives.
“It took us eight years to go from a sketch on a piece of paper, an agreement in principle, to the reality. There's a personal return on everybody from DPRI and the host nation who's invested their time to whatever piece of the puzzle because we want to see everyone enjoy the facilities.”
- John Lackie, Director, DPRI Integrated Program Management Office
S-7 External Affairs:
Public Affairs office for maintaining government to government relationships between Host Nation/City and MCAS/MCCS Iwakuni.
“The Atago Sports Complex is basically a key resource to help us maintain positive relations with our host nation holistically, the city and as well as the local ministry and which is our direct interface.”
- John F. Zambrano, S-7, Government & External Affairs Office