Rebuilding set to start after final original panel removed from Air Force Academy chapel

USAFA gave updates on the Academy's chapel construction project Thursday as the last original panel was removed.
Published: Mar. 31, 2023 at 7:03 AM MDT
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - The last of the 1,008 aluminum panels from the Air Force Academy’s Cadet Chapel was removed Thursday, allowing crews to start the process of rebuilding following a lengthy demolition process.

The chapel closed in 2019 for repairs and restoration due to leakage problems that had been causing damage to the building since it opened. Once closed, crews discovered asbestos in the chapel, including 32 miles of asbestos caulking used as a barrier to try and solve the leaks. According to officials, 147 dumpsters of asbestos-containing material was removed from the chapel during demolition.

With the removal of the final aluminum panel, crews can now start putting the historic structure back together.

“This is certainly, in my career, 42 years doing this in the Air Force, the most complex project I’ve ever experienced and been exposed to,” USAFA Director of Logistics, Engineering & Force Protection Carlos Cruz-Gonzalez said. According to Cruz-Gonzalez, the current cost of the project sits at about $220 million. This figure includes budget additions due to the asbestos discovery.

The removal of that asbestos was another large step in the process of the project, adding on a few years from an original projected end date of 2023.

“Fortunately we’re beyond that now,” USAFA Architect Duane Boyle said, “which is great because in 2019, it was an ominous task to get all the asbestos out of here.”

Many of those involved in the project said it’s an honor to be involved in the resteration of the landmark.

“I hope I speak for our team when I say that all of us are continually humbled when we hear the stories about what this building means to so many and for so long of a time,” JE Dunn Construction Vice President Donny Tennyson said.

“This chapel remains a beacon of hope, of resilience, not only for our family members, but also for our military personnel all over the globe,” Chaplain Col. Julian Gaither said.

Officials said the project looks to be on-track to be completed by late 2026, with a projected opening date of 2027.