Ground was turned Wednesday for construction of a new $23 million Iowa National Guard Davenport Readiness Center at Davenport's West Kimberly Road and Wisconsin Avenue, a project that has been decades in the making.
Standing under a white tent with an excavator as a backdrop, Maj. Gen. Tim Orr explained that in the past 25 years, every National Guard facility in the state has been rebuilt or refurbished and that construction of the new center will replace "the last of the oldest facilities."
"This is very significant," Orr said. "It's 30 years later than it should be, but we're getting it done."
The building will provide a new home for the Guard, which has been using three buildings at 3615 Brady St., just north of the Davenport Community School District's Brady Street Stadium, and the parking lot area east of the Brady Street complex, at 909 E. 36th St., near the backside of the Old Town Shopping Center.
The Guard and the school district swapped the two parcels; the sites at Brady/36th streets total about 10 acres and the West Kimberly Road site is about 37 acres, currently farm ground next to the school district's baseball/softball fields.
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The one-story, 86,000-square-foot readiness center at 5300 W. Kimberly Road is expected to be finished in spring 2019. It will include an assembly hall, offices, classrooms, physical fitness space, a kitchen and vehicle maintenance training bays. The space also is designed for community use and will be available to provide shelter during natural disasters.
In remarks before the shovel-turning, U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, thanked the Iowa National Guard for "helping to keep us safe," and made a point of thanking the families of Guard members who have to fend for themselves when Guard members are deployed.
"I don't think families are given enough credit," he said.
At present, 800 Iowa National Guard members are "serving in harm's way," Orr said.
The readiness center will be home to Company B, 224th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, with the potential for more Iowa National Guard units to be stationed at the center in the future, according to a news release accompanying the groundbreaking.
The center is being built by OPUS Group of Minnetonka, Minnesota, and will be the third-largest in the state, behind those serving the Des Moines and Cedar Rapids areas.