As officials broke ground on the new Fort Hood Mall, Garrison Commander Col. Matt Elledge joked he hopes not to move before it opens in 2015.

The new shopping center will double the size of the current Clear Creek Main Exchange, said Paula Gunderson, general manager of Fort Hood Exchange, during a groundbreaking ceremony June 26.

“I’m honored to be a part of the team that worked together to bring the best to the Fort Hood community,” Elledge said.

Army & Air Force Exchange Service is building the new 265,000-square-foot Fort Hood Mall on Clear Creek Road, just across the street from the current 128,000-square-foot facility.

The new mall, which is estimated to cost just under $47 million, will include everything people have come to expect from the exchange, but bigger, better and more efficient, Gunderson said.

“It will give customers a better shopping experience,” she said.

New amenities planned are a pharmacy, optical center, dentist, more stores and more dining options in an expanded food court. A Starbucks is in talks of opening inside, Gunderson added. Sporting goods will move from the Warrior Way Specialty Store to the new facility. It is unclear what the exchange on the east side of post will look like after the new one opens, she said.

Mike Smietana, vice president of Real Estate Directorate Exchange, traveled from AAFES Dallas-based headquarters for the groundbreaking. He said the new facility will be one of the five largest exchanges, similar in scale to the one at Fort Campbell, Ky.

“It will be the most modern,” Smietana said.

AAFES returns 67 percent of its earnings back to Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs, and last year alone more than $3.8 million went back to those community programs.

“We take pride at AAFES in giving back to the community,” Smietana said. “You save as a community and we give back.”

Personnel working in the existing Clear Creek exchange will transfer to the new Fort Hood Mall when it opens in spring 2015. The current building will be given back to the garrison command, Smietana said.

Contact Rose L. Thayer at or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary.

Rose L. Thayer is the military editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. She joined the paper in February 2011 as a health and military reporter. View her complete profile Here.

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