National Guard Armory in Prairie du Chien undergoing renovation
By Correne Martin
For the first time since the National Guard Armory was built at 601 N. Marquette Rd., in Prairie du Chien, in 1956, a major renovation has begun inside the facility. The Department of Military Affairs is funding the $1.5 million project, which started in late 2013. The 229th Engineer Company is anticipating the construction at its readiness center to be complete by this summer.
“Aesthetically, it will look much different,” said Chad Smethurst, 229th horizontal construction engineer. “It will give us the ability to work in a more professional environment.”
A majority of the project’s costs will involve updating the boiler system from steam to water, improving the electrical system and installing air conditioning. The heating and electrical systems at the Armory were 20 to 30 years old, failing and costly to operate, according to the Department of Military Affairs.
“It was always very hot in the summer and cold in the winter,” Smethurst explained.
In addition to the boiler system upgrade, the men’s and women’s bathroom and shower rooms are being expanded and will now comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The classrooms are being updated and a physical training area will be accommodated. A utility room, some new furnishings and paint are also being added.
Finally, the outdated commercial kitchen, which was in disrepair and sparingly used, is being replaced with a kitchenette.
“Before, there were two rooms—a prep room that took up 500 to 600 square feet and a second area of about 200 square feet where food was prepared. We haven’t really utilized the kitchen for several years,” Smethurst said. “We aren’t cooking very many meals there. The majority of the time, we use a local caterer.”
Smethurst noted that, a couple years ago, the Armory’s offices were painted, refurnished and redecorated with furniture. This project will bring the rest of the interior up-to-date.
The 229th, which is assigned to both the Prairie du Chien and Platteville Armories, hopes to return to holding its weekend drills and utilizing the Armory’s office space in June.
Until then, some of the bigger community events typically held at the Armory have been moved or canceled altogether. Voting has been relocated to the Prairie du Chien City Hall. The area schools’ Reality Check is moving also and the Prairie Rod and Gun Club’s Bucks of Crawford County show was canceled in February.
“It will be a lot nicer for people who rent the building. They will be able to use our facility more efficiently,” Smethurst said. “It’s a good benefit for our community for the cost [charged for rental].”
The general contractor for the Armory project is Rock Church Construction, of Grant County.