Faculty target Armory repairs

The 119-year-old building is home to ROTC programs.

The Armory exterior on Friday. Although the exterior appears in good condition, the rifle range inside has been closed down due to lead contamination.

Sam Harper

The Armory exterior on Friday. Although the exterior appears in good condition, the rifle range inside has been closed down due to lead contamination.

Keaton Schmitt

In a sealed room inside the University of Minnesota’s Armory, long plastic sheeting covers the walls, purposefully making more than half the room inaccessible. Unused exercise equipment and office supplies are shoved to one side.
 
The room is a shooting range that once housed a team known for winning national championships. It’s been closed since 1995 because of its high lead concentration.
 
The building, which those who frequent it say has seen minor fixes since its construction in 1896, is at the center of a Faculty Senate push for a total renovation.
 
The building houses the University’s ROTC programs, blood drives, Post-Secondary Enrollment Options offices and general purpose classrooms. Some Faculty Senate members are trying to spread awareness of the building’s state and are reaching out to alumni.
 
Until last year, the armory frequently had power outages during periods of peak use, said Lt. Col. Dustin Harris, the University’s Army ROTC Commander — but Facilities Management fixed the problem, he said.
 
The building also lacks an elevator and other features, giving it an accessibility rating of zero, according to Facilities Management.
 
Facilities Management Associate Vice President Mike Berthelsen said the building has a facility conditions need index of .65 on a scale of 0-1, where 1 indicates the most need. The entire campus average is .40.
 
ROTC leadership hopes an alumnus will donate money that the University will match or that school leaders will find another source of funding to renovate the armory.
 
“What is really needed is a capital reinvestment,” Harris said, adding that the situation is not manageable with patchwork repairs.
 
There have been recent plans to renovate other historic buildings, like Pillsbury Hall, which is slated to undergo renovations beginning in spring 2017 at a projected cost of $33 million, but the armory remains untouched except for minor maintenance.
 
The armory is the sixth oldest building on campus. The tradition of the Little Brown Jug, which is the symbol of the rivalry between the University of Minnesota’s and the
University of Michigan’s football teams, began in the armory locker room when Michigan football players left a water jug behind after a 1903 game. Now, the winning team of
each Minnesota-Michigan game keeps the trophy.  
 
The armory was also the former center for the University’s sports because it was the only gym on campus when it was built.
 
Some faculty members on the senate’s ROTC Subcommittee and ROTC commanders said they support a renovation and feel the armory is a school symbol and a rich part of its history.
 
“For us, this is really home,” said midshipman and University of Minnesota student Bryce Mayor.
 
Joan Howland, a law professor and the Faculty Senate ROTC Subcommittee chair, said a repair to the armory would allow more efficient use of its already existing resources.
 
The armory contains unused classrooms, and any renovations or improvements to these already existing spaces would integrate the ROTC program more effectively with the University, Harris said.