An area in Tumwater has been selected, the land purchased and now construction bids could be sought as early as this spring or summer for the Thurston County Readiness Center, a state Military Department official said Wednesday.
The Military Department, the state agency that operates the Washington Army National Guard, is constructing the new center. It will replace Washington National Guard armories in Olympia and Puyallup, said Ron Cross, construction project manager for the military department.
The $42 million project, which has received state and federal funding, includes the $2.8 million spent to purchase 53 acres at 8311 Kimmie St. SW, kitty corner from Bush Middle School.
That area of Tumwater had available and affordable land, and it's convenient to those who serve in the guard, Cross said.
"The traditional line used to be 'one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer,' but most folks are more involved than that," Cross said of National Guard service.
The readiness center will be used largely for training, but it will not hose live-fire training and it will not have an indoor firing range, he said. The project calls for a 78,000-square-foot main building, plus two smaller vehicle storage buildings. The larger building will house classrooms and simulators for training. It also will have a 6,000-square-foot assembly hall or gym, Cross said.
Once the project is complete, which is expected in early 2021, the center will have a full-time staff of 20-25, but 300 to 400 in the Washington National Guard will use it.
The buildings will occupy about 10 acres, while the remaining land could be used for land navigation exercises and other training.
The Olympia armory at Eastside Street and Legion Way, built in 1939, was offered to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Thurston County, but they took a pass, Cross said.
"It's a big old building that has all of the issues of a big old building," he said. He said the armory still might be used by another guard unit or be sold.
Central Pierce Fire & Rescue, which serves the city of Puyallup, is expected to purchase the armory there, state Military Department spokeswoman Karina Shagren said.
The city of Tumwater has received a site plan and building permit application for the Readiness Center project, permit manager Chris Carlson said. He is waiting for more documents from the state Military Department before the city issues a notice of application — typically in the form of a legal advertisement published in the newspaper — which would trigger a 14-day comment period.
Because federal funding is involved, the project has completed its environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act.