Long-sought funding for a new National Guard armory in Juneau has come within reach.
The U.S. Senate on Wednesday approved a military construction bill that includes $7.5 million for a new Juneau "readiness facility" to house equipment and approximately 120 personnel.
The measure now heads to a joint conference committee.
"We're excited and very much encouraged that this project will actually be a reality here in the not-too-distant future," said Lt. Col. Craig Schreiber, construction and facilities management officer for the National Guard.
The National Guard has to vacate its current location near Centennial Hall downtown because the Alaska Mental Health Trust, which owns the land, is interested in developing it.
The city secured 10 acres for a new facility at 7 Mile Glacier Highway in a land swap with the trust, but recent focus has shifted to land near Auke Bay.
The National Guard and University of Alaska Southeast in November unveiled a proposal for a joint recreation and drill facility on land between Auke Bay Elementary School and UAS student housing.
The plan calls for a 55,000-square-foot building with a collegiate-size gym and bleachers seating 750 people. The National Guard and university students would have use of the gym, an indoor running track, a two-story climbing wall and exercise, dance and weight rooms, as well as a lounge, kitchen and classrooms.
The proposal also calls for a 8,000-square-foot vehicle maintenance shop on the site for the National Guard. Under the proposal, the university would own the land and the National Guard would own the buildings.
The proposed project is estimated to cost $15 million, with the university paying $5.4 million and the National Guard kicking in $9.6 million, said Schreiber.
The $7.5 million in federal funding would put the National Guard on track for its portion of the project. However, it still would need the state Legislature to appropriate $2 million in matching funds, said Schreiber, who was hopeful that would happen next year.
"It's always been thought if the federal government stepped up and said 'Here's the money,' the state would more than likely follow," he said.
The joint project also is contingent on lawmakers appropriating $5.4 million for the university's share. The Legislature this year passed a resolution sponsored by Juneau Democratic Sen. Kim Elton supporting a new armory in Juneau and calling for congressional funding. A university spokesman said that's a good sign the Legislature is willing to spend state dollars on the project.
"Why else would they encourage the Congress to support it?" said Keith Gerken, UAS facilities director. "I do think there is support."
Kathy Dye can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.