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Gamers to celebrate at Warrior Zone

Winter barbecue, video game tournaments planned to mark JBLM Warrior Zone’s first year on Sunday

Scott Hansen/JBLM PAO 2012 Spc. David Timmons, right, Sgt. 1st Class Darrell Rowe, and Pfc. William Ayala Moore play Battlefield 3 during the grand opening of Warrior Zone on JBLM Lewis North.

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The Warrior Zone turns 1 Sunday.

The popular high-tech, state of the art recreation center on JBLM Lewis North next to Wilson Sports and Fitness Center saw more than 150,000 patrons pass through the door in its first year.

The Warrior Zone will celebrate its birthday with a winter barbecue Sunday on the heated patio starting at noon. The festivities will include food specials, doorprizes and what the Warrior Zone does best: video game tournaments. The Warrior Zone - and the anniversary party - are open to military ID holders who are at least 18 years old.

Located in the middle of barracks, the Warrior Zone has become a popular home away from home for single Soldiers and Airmen. The $11 million facility includes 53 high-definition TVs, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 systems, 32 AlienWare gaming computers, 40 Internet surfing computers, a movie room, pool tales and a bar/cafe.

"It's really cool to have a little something for everybody," the Warrior Zone recreation manager Elizabeth Thunstedt said.

About 500 people use the 27,000-square foot facility daily. During the week the Internet surfing computers are the popular item, while on the weekends the AlienWare gaming computers are often the hot ticket. It doesn't matter what time of the day it is, the Xbox 360 consoles and pool tables are always in use.

When the Warrior Zone opened Jan. 27, 2012, the staff was unable to get in its last week of training because of a snow and ice storm. Staff members quickly learned on the job. Thunstedt - who also celebrates her seven-year anniversary with Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Sunday - has retained a lot of the same staff from opening day and takes pride in them as experts in what they do.

The staff continues to implement fresh ideas at the Warrior Zone to cater to everyone, especially amping up their Monday to Thursday schedule. Monday night's "Old School Game Night" features classic board games, Tuesdays are pool tournament nights, Wednesdays include Texas Hold ‘Em tournaments and Thursdays are for video game tournaments. There are plans in the works for events like March Madness, baseball Opening Day and the Kentucky Derby.

"We want to continue having fun and continue taking care of our Soldiers and Airmen who are in here," Thunstedt said.

Toward the end of Sunday's anniversary party at 4 p.m., Super Bowl champion and JBLM stadium manager Otis Sistrunk will be present to sign autographs and watch the Pro Bowl with patrons.

The Warrior Zone is also home to JBLM's Better Opportunities for Single Service members program.

The JBLM Warrior Zone is the second of the brand to open on a military installation after Fort Riley, Kan. A facility at Fort Irwin, Calif., will open next month.

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