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National Guard Armory opening
Finishing touches put on new facility
Armory WEB 1
U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. First Class John Ingle, left, talks with project manager Ray Neal as the two look over the locker room at the new National Guard Armory in Cumming. Ingle has been overseeing construction of the project for the Department of Defense. - photo by Jim Dean

A new National Guard Armory in Cumming welcomed its first guardsmen training this weekend.

“There’s been no more than 20 people here at any given time, and [this weekend] there’ll be in excess of 350 people here,” said Sgt. First Class John Ingle on Thursday. “It’ll be all the troops coming from all the units. They’ll be moving in their vehicles, so people will probably see a lot of convoy movement on Ga. 400.”

Ingle has been overseeing construction of the facility, which is off Pilgrim Mill Road across from the Cumming Aquatic Center, for the Department of Defense. He said the troops who are working at the armory this weekend will be stocking and finishing the facility.   

The armory cost about $26 million, with 75 percent of the funding coming from the federal government and the remainder from state sources. The city of Cumming donated the 12 acres on which the armory sits.

“The Army has changed a lot over the years,” Ingle said. “This is not what most people would think of as the typical armory. This is a real nice facility.”

Ingle had high praise for Cooper & Company General Contractors, which oversaw the project, as well as all the subcontractors who took part.

“We’ve had virtually no problems with this site at all,” he said. “Everyone who has worked on it has done a phenomenal job.”

At 104,000 square feet and two stories, the facility features many more amenities and is more than four times larger than the former armory on Canton Highway, west of Cumming.

That site will be closing sometime within the next few months, according to Ingle.

“We’ve got over 10,000 cubic yards of concrete at this site and the initial run of data wire was about 98 miles,” he said, making note of the new facility’s vast size. “There are also at least 75 keyways with anywhere from two to 10 keys a piece.”

Among the features is a modern auditorium with about 300 seats and high-tech audio-visual equipment, a fitness facility and a 5,000-square-foot cafeteria that can accommodate up to 400.

“[The cafeteria is] one of two large areas they can congregate,” said Ray Neal, project manager for Copper & Company. “It’s a state-of-the-art room with televisions and a large screen and projectors.”

Added Ingle: “It gives a whole new meaning to the military term ‘chow hall.’”

There’s also space with about 400 lockers.

“Every soldier will have a place to keep all their gear so they don’t have to carry everything around with them,” Ingle said. “We really want all the soldiers to have access to the equipment.”

At times such as this weekend, the armory will play host to more than 300 guardsmen and women.

“On a full-time basis — and that’s during the week — you’ll have less than 50,” Ingle said. “On the weekends, when everyone’s here, you’ll have in excess of 300 people, and that changes a lot based on the needs of the military.”

The armory is what’s known as a regional readiness center. Ingles said it is the first such center in Georgia not affiliated with a pre-existing military base.

“This is designed … so that if there’s an emergency anywhere in the region, we can work in conjunction with the local law, local fire and local medical if needed. And if something was to happen, they could come here and function out of here.”

The armory has three vaults and several other storage areas, as well as about 60 “hard offices” and 150 cubicles.

There are also several conference rooms and break areas, as well as classrooms and library space. Neal noted the facility is also LEED-certified.

“Basically, that’s designing, building and constructing in an environmentally-friendly fashion,” he said. “For example, using systems that use a lot less power to get the same effect.”

Several of the spaces in the armory — including the cafeteria, auditorium and classrooms — will be available for residents to use, though the general public will have to wait a little longer before getting a first look inside.

“I would expect some sort of grand opening event for the public probably sometime within the next three months,” Ingle said.