Ribbon cut on expanded US military base in Vicenza

245-million-euro annex spans 143 acres in UNESCO city

Ribbon cut on expanded US military base in Vicenza

Vicenza, July 2 - A white ribbon was cut on a newly expanded American military base in Vicenza, Italy on Tuesday. The 245-million-euro expansion of the base in northern Italy, called Del Din, consists of 28 buildings and spans more than 143 acres, including baseball and football fields, a gymnasium, a recreation center, a theater and a mess hall. Largely built in the 16th-century Palladian style, the new installation is also "the first in the history of the US defence department to achieve a sustainability certification," said Colonel David Buckingham at the inauguration. Also in attendance were Veneto Governor Luca Zaia, American Ambassador Davide Thorne, and General Donald M.Cambell, the commander of the US army in Europe, among other dignitaries. "This is an American investment in American and Italian security," said Thorne. "It is also the greenest base in the world. It's a monument to the security and the health not only of those who work here but also to our neighbors". The base is now equipped to host the entire 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, which had been divided between Italy and Germany. It will also be the headquarters for the 503rd Infantry Regiment, a special support battalion, the 509th Signal Battalion and the US Army Africa Command. The expansion of the air base, which was called Dal Molin until recently, was at the center of controversy for several years and split the local population between those against enlarging the US military presence and those who see this an an economic opportunity. The project was in and out of the courts until the Council of State in 2009 overturned a regional court's ruling against the expansion. The airfield is across town from the main Ederle military base that hosts the headquarters of the Southern European Task Force (SETF), which has been in Italy since the early 1950s and includes a rapid reaction force that has seen action in Iraq and Afghanistan. Opponents to the project argued expansion would have a devastating effect on the urban fabric of the city, which is on UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites for its host of buildings and villas by Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio. Others have argued the expansion would make Vicenza a target in the event of a military conflict or terrorist attack. Still others see it as an economic boon.

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