PARKERSBURG - The West Virginia National Guard has announced a partnership with West Virginia University at Parkersburg to construct an armory.
Officials from the West Virginia National Guard met with the WVU-P Board of Governors Wednesday night and entered into a partnership for the guard to construct an armed forces readiness center on the property.
The guard made its selection announcement Thursday afternoon.
Photos by Brett Dunlap
Land adjacent to West Virginia University at Parkersburg has been selected as the site for the new West Virginia National Guard Armory.
"We are very excited about this opportunity to partner with WVU Parkersburg," Maj. Gen. James A. Hoyer, West Virginia adjutant general, stated in a release. "We look forward to working with WVU-P to develop a layout that will best meet everyone's needs by adding areas such as classrooms, an assembly hall, expanded parking lots, and conference areas to the campus."
Joe Campbell, chairman of the WVU-P Board of Governors, said a partnership with the guard has lots of "benefits and possibilities" for both parties.
"As the community's college, we are always looking for collaborations that serve Mid-Ohio Valley residents, including our military men and women," WVU-P President Marie Foster Gnage said. "What better way to accomplish this than to partner with such a stellar organization."
"This will benefit the entire Parkersburg area by having a state of the art facility for use by the local community," Hoyer said.
Wood County Commission president Blair Couch also was pleased by the announcement.
"It's a tremendous opportunity for WVU-P and the guard," he said.
The news of the guard's selection comes as a surprise for many. For the last several years local officials have been working with the guard on the development of an armory site with the hopes of partnering for a convention center and civic arena.
Guard officials need 23 acres of developable land to build a readiness center. In July, guard officials announced the conclusion of site visits and narrowed selections.
The guard had five sites it was considering: the existing Blizzard Drive facility, Fort Boreman, the Lee's Hill property near U.S. 50 and West Virginia 47, property behind the south side Wal-Mart, and the Parkersburg Business Park.
WVU-P entered the mix in December. Campbell said Hoyer was on campus in December for the school's graduation commencement and liked the lay of the land - both figuratively and literally.
Mayor Bob Newell said with the selection of WVU-P, the city's idea is dead.
There is no room for the development of a hotel, which is a necessity for a convention center, he said. The mayor noted WVU-P is outside the city limits and the city is prohibited from spending money on projects outside its limits.
Newell was not upset by the news of the selected site.
"It is clearly outside the city, but it doesn't have to be inside the city for it to be good for the community," he said.
Campbell said as a city resident he wanted to see a convention center built.
"We need the convention space and more hotel space," he said. "But from a selfish standpoint, from the board of governors, this could be a real win for the college and the guard."
The project had been given several million dollars for engineering and design in 2009. Officials said it will probably be at least five years before the armory is completed.
Campbell said officials will form a taskforce for the facility project. Couch said county officials would be happy to be included in the discussions regarding the project.
"I don't know the specifics of their plans, but it seems like a good partnership," he said.
In addition to the construction of the Parkersburg Armed Forces Readiness Center, the agreement also addressed the shared use of the AFRC in Millwood. The guard has a facility there that it will allow WVU-P to use for classrooms to offer courses to the local community.
"With more than 700 students, our Jackson County Center in Ripley is bursting at the seams," Gnage said. "We are looking forward to being able to expand our quality programming and reaching out to more students within our service area in partnership with the guard."