A North Carolina National Guard regional training center in Burke County could be close to opening by the end of the year.
The three buildings that will make up the Morganton regional National Guard Readiness Center are all on the property that once held a high-rise prison in the Salem community. Western Youth Institution was demolished in July 2020 to make way for the National Guard training center.
Maj. Matthew Boyle, North Carolina National Guard spokesman, told The News Herald last week that construction on the training facility, which started in 2020, is more than halfway complete. He said construction is anticipated to be completed in the fall.
Boyle told N.C. Rep. Hugh Blackwell’s office in an email that construction is scheduled to conclude in late October with an estimated additional 60 days of outfitting the facility and to work through construction punch list items.
Boyle told The News Herald the facility is expected to be furnished by December.
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There’s an expected 30 full-time staff who will work in the facility but it also will be a regional training center for 400 guardsmen from the 630th Support Battalion and elements from the 878th Engineer Company and the 1451st Transportation Company and Detachment 1-626 Maintenance Company, Boyle said.
The training center campus will hold three buildings totaling 66,000 square feet on the 38 acres. It will be the first regional readiness center ‘HUB’ for the state, the plans for it said.
The largest building will be readiness center that will have a two-story classroom/administration wing and a one-story unit storage/locker room wing connected by an assembly hall/kitchen wing. Support buildings will be a training bay facility and a storage building, according to the plans.
The center campus will include an entrance drive and roundabout with a Minute Man statue in the center. There will be parking for 250 vehicles with some parking spaces specifically designated for motorcycles, an entrance plaza, courtyard, secure military vehicle storage yard, loading ramp, covered wash bay and a half-mile physical training track, according to the plans.
The plans also include a footprint for a future helipad and a solar power field.
The National Guard got $23.33 million from the $2 billion Connect NC bond package to renovate Western Youth Institution for a National Guard training facility. Voters approved the bond package in early 2016.
However, officials determined it would cost more to renovate the 16-story building and bring it up to current building codes than to demolish it and build new. It also will be more energy efficient, say officials.
Boyle told The News Herald last week the total commitment for the Morganton training center is $37 million, which includes design costs, demolition of the high rise prison, debris removal and construction. He said the actual new building and site cost is about $31 million.
Officials say a regional training center will provide quicker response to state emergencies and improve readiness for deployments.
“It’s a wonderful campus there,” Boyle said.