New Guard facility coming to Grand Junction
Gov. Bill Ritter and top brass of the Colorado National Guard broke ground for a new Grand Junction Readiness Center on Tuesday.
The 35,000-square-foot facility, adjacent to the National Guard armory at 2810 Riverside Parkway, will house Company C of the 1st Battalion, 157th Light Infantry, one of five new companies coming to Colorado.
The new 800-soldier unit will share the armory with the 947th Engineer Company.
“I’m pleased that even in a difficult budget climate, we’re able to invest in the future of the Colorado National Guard,” Ritter said. “For the Grand Junction community, this armory will bring much-needed jobs to the area, and the construction and operations of the center will be a boost to the local economy.”
The new $11 million facility, to be built on a 10-acre site northwest of the Veterans Memorial Cemetery, is being backed by state and federal funds. Two facilities also are being built in Alamosa and Windsor to house other companies of the battalion.
Construction of the facility is to begin in September. Completion is expected by the end of next year.
Col. Dana Capozzella, assistant adjutant general of the Colorado Army National Guard, said the expansion of the battalion comes at a time when other states are closing armories because of a lack of funding.
“We are one of the most fortunate states,” she said. “We’re providing potential for the communities, for their members, for their children. There’s potential here, and there’s possibility. Now that we’ve got this armory, be prepared for more potential growth.”
The governor and guard officials said the new armory will pump millions of dollars into the local economy in construction jobs and the mostly part-time armory positions, although some full-time soldiers will be stationed there.
The new facility will include an assembly hall and sleeping units. It also will be available for community events.
The state’s portion of the construction costs is about $6.4 million. Some of that money is being taken from the Colorado State Veterans Trust Fund, which primarily comes from dollars the state receives from the 1999 settlement agreement with major tobacco companies. The Colorado Legislature approved using that money on a near-unanimous vote.
While some veterans have balked at the state using veterans’ money for an armory, Ritter said most veterans’ groups supported the idea.
“When you look at this, it’s going to help the economies in the places were we’re building these facilities,” he said. “The Grand Junction economy, first of all there are construction jobs. After that, it will support additional guardsmen being here. There’s actually a positive benefit for the Colorado economy.”
He said the federal government picks up most of the operational costs of the armory, such as salaries. The state only pays those expenses when the governor has to activate the guard to respond to an emergency.
A Denver firm won the architectural contract to design the facility, but a Grand Junction company, FCI Constructors Inc., 3070 Interstate 70 Business Loop, will be the general contractor.
The battalion will be the National Guard’s first infantry unit in the state since the 1950s. The 157th Light Infantry, created during the Civil War, fought during World War II, liberating a Nazi concentration camp at Dachau, Germany.