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NFL Sports Lounge at New USO Center in Bethesda Adds Unique Touch for Wounded Warriors

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

By Eric Brandner  

It’s not just a room. It’s not just a couch. And it’s not just a football game on TV.

It’s all part of a home. Their home.

That’s the message the USO and NFL want to deliver when the USO Warrior and Family Center on the campus of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., opens Tuesday. The 16,217-square-foot building is walking distance from the Walter Reed hospital and the barracks rooms where some of the most seriously injured active-duty service members receive treatment and rehabilitation.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sees the center – and the NFL’s partnership with the USO – as a necessary and valuable investment.

“We are excited to be creating the NFL Sports Lounge,” Goodell said. “Committing funds to the USO’s Operation Enduring Care was an easy decision.”

At 900 square feet, the USO envisions the NFL Sports Lounge as a community recreation hub. Outfitted with four flat-panel televisions on the walls, a poker table and multiple video-gaming stations, it’s where troops will naturally congregate to both compete and kick back.

And it’ll likely be buzzing on Sundays in the fall, when the NFL season is in full swing.

“We recognize that our wounded veterans and their caregivers need us more than ever,” Goodell said. “We know that sports and recreation are important to these families. We hope the programming at the NFL Sports Lounge will make a positive impact.”

The NFL is one of several major USO donors that helped make the building possible, including A. James Clark, president of of Clark Construction (which built the center) and Northrop Grumman. Broken down into three zones, the center features areas for recreation and normalcy – which is where the NFL Sports Lounge, kitchen and the outdoor grill area fall – along with reclusive respite areas and a technology-rich education and work section. 

The goal is for the center to provide every opportunity possible to recovering service members and their families and caregivers on the Bethesda campus as they plan their futures. Not only will they be able to relax and unwind in the sports lounge, but they have opportunities to take classes in the fully wired classroom and business center. In addition, the center also has quiet spaces like the studio and healing gardens where wounded warriors can participate in therapy sessions or just enjoy a moment of solitude.

The building – the sister center to the USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, Va. – was designed so the sports lounge wouldn’t share a common wall with any of the center’s other rooms. This setup allows for a unique situation where troops and family members could be in the midst of a party one moment and then move to the more introspective studio down the hall moments later.

“These centers are really delivering our promise as the way that America says thank you to our wounded, ill and injured service members,” USO Senior Vice President of Operations Alan Reyes said during a site visit last fall. “It could be as simple as kicking back and having a place to watch the game … [to] things as simple as a place to get online, to stay connected to things that are going on back home.”

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