Armory feasibility study revealed

A group of local agencies have about six months to decide whether or not they will absorb the costs of maintaining and upgrading an Elkins building that’s annual operating costs may range to nearly $35,000.

The National Guard Armory in Elkins will be completely vacated by the National Guard in a matter of months and then it will be up to local government and non-profit agencies to determine whether or not it is feasible to maintain and upgrade. Alpha Associates, a West Virginia-based architecture and engineering firm, presented a feasibility study Wednesday at Elkins High School.

The feasibility study was initiated by the Randolph County Development Authority.

The other entities represented at Wednesday’s meeting were the Randolph County Commission, Randolph County Board of Education, the city of Elkins and the Mountain State Forest Festival Board of Directors.

Representatives from Alpha were present to explain that turning the facility into what they called the Randolph County Conference Center would take three phases and $2.9 to $3.7 million total.

The study also estimated a potential revenue stream of $31,000 after phase one of the upgrades was complete. This revenue would be thousands of dollars short of the estimated $100,000 operating cost for the refurbished facility.

“It’s not what you would call prime banquet or conference space,” said Rebecca Key, Alpha associate and architect, said of the armory’s current main space.

Alpha representative Rick Colebank said the bones of the building were strong and had potential. The first things the study addressed were increased access to the building, upgrading bathroom facilities and increasing the overall aesthetics of the building’s exterior at a cost of between $400,000 to $600,000.

Phase two would focus on turning the drill hall into a multi-functional conference space with the option of creating two smaller rooms with the use of folding walls at a cost of between $1 to $1.5 million.

The final, most ambitious phase, includes creating a new 6,400-square-foot addition to the existing structure. Both phase two and three also include expansion of the parking lots.

“Things can change and certainly will change as you go through the process,” Colebank said. “The plan we present is preliminary.”

While representatives never said the facility couldn’t be self-sustaining, it was made clear there would have to be a group to subsidize the cost for keeping the building open. Colebank added that the building would have to be marketed and draw on current area events for sources of income.

Community members as well as representatives of the groups that helped fund the study were present and asked questions after the presentation regarding the building’s current operating costs and the future operating costs.

Numbers given by Alpha representatives differed greatly from those provided to Del. Bill Hartman, D-Randolph. Alpha said the building ran an annual utility bill of $12,500. Hartman, who said he received his information from the armory’s commanding officer, stated the annual cost of utilities was $34,852. Both numbers were for the building in its current state, with no addition of a central air conditioning system.

When asked how long the assembled groups had to put a plan into motion, Hartman responded that the window of opportunity was only a matter of months. After that time, the building and the roughly 8 acres on which it sits will be sold at public auction, he said

“We’d have to do something in the next five to six months,” Hartman said.

While no one agency stated outright that it would be interested in absorbing the building, the meeting’s tone was one of urgency and concern.

“We need to come up with a plan on how to use (the armory) and keep it in use,” said Ray Lamora, Elkins businessman and member of the Board of Directors for the Mountain State Forest Festival.

No further meeting dates were discussed or announced at the end of the meeting.

Contact Alec Rader by email at