In some ways, the New Mexico Military Institute campus is very quiet right now, with no cadets on campus and only a small staff for the summer months made even more sparse at times to comply with coronavirus restrictions concerning the number of people in any given area.
But, in another way, the Institute is a campus full of activity.
Several major construction projects are underway, including the start of renovations to JRT Hall; a $6 million upgrade of the lighting and electrical systems in about 20 buildings on campus, under a guaranteed energy performance contract that will pay for the debt service for the project; and a complete overhaul of Cahoon Hall, sometimes referred to as Cahoon Armory. It is the first substantial renovation of the 92-year-old building.
The entire Cahoon Hall project costs about $17.3 million, including design by NPSR Architects of Carlsbad and the construction by Waide Construction Co. of Roswell. The program is financed with general obligation bonds, privately sold revenue bonds and NMMI capital reserve funds.
Cahoon Hall is the indoor athletic facility for most NMMI high school and collegiate sports, as well as a place for conference rooms, offices and locker rooms.
It will keep its historic exterior, with all construction required to be approved by the New Mexico Historical Preservation Division. But its interior will become a modern, well-equipped and coeducational-friendly facility meant to provide more equity for women and men’s sports, more room for additional sports in the future and a safe, more efficient and accessible building.
“In many cases, there weren’t any codes, like seismic codes, when it was built,” said Col. David West, NMMI chief of staff. “In many other cases, the codes were way outdated. When this building was built in (1928), NMMI was all-male, so it was built to support all males.”
For example, women volleyball players have been using bathrooms with urinals.
In a tour of the building, West and Facilities Director Kent Taylor pointed out where structural beams had to be replaced, where columns needed to be reinforced or new ones installed because the bottoms had rusted away.
The building also had to have asbestos and lead removed and will be made compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, including having an elevator installed for the first time and public restrooms available on the main gymnasium level.
The gym area also will feature a catwalk, accessible from higher-level offices and viewing areas, allowing spectators to watch from an elevated area.
With all the work that had to be done, the good news is that the frame of the building remains strong, West said.
“The bones of this building are very good. They made these structures well,” he said.
The building has five levels, including two full floors. The basement will house mainly the locker rooms and changing areas for several different sports (baseball, basketball, football and volleyball) as well as some offices and training areas.
The main floor will be the gymnasium, the public restrooms, a new concession area and additional offices. On the top three upper floors, which are not full floors, will be coaches’ and athletic department offices, meeting areas and viewing rooms.
When the newly renovated building is unveiled, the NMMI population and the general public will likely feel that they are entering an entirely new building, West said.
Not only will space be used more efficiently and all rooms be updated and fresh, the building will better serve cadets.
“Part of it is to address Title IX concerns,” West said. “Part of it is the opportunity in the future to introduce other sports. We are talking about women’s softball, as an example.”
The original schedule called for reconstruction to be finished around December, but nothing is certain at this time. Work began in January, but everything stopped when COVID-19 concerns resulted in the initial “stay-at-home” orders in New Mexico in mid-March.
While crews came back after a couple of weeks, West and Taylor said that they sometimes still face difficulties obtaining needed building materials and supplies.
Whenever construction is finished, West said, NMMI will be sure to open the doors for a celebration.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.