Armory no longer safety hazard, city makes plans for its use

Armory no longer safety hazard, city makes plans for its use

LAWTON, Okla._After several years of sitting vacant, the old Lawton National Guard Armory no longer presents a safety hazard.

In a celebration Friday, the doors were opened so that city leaders could tour the revamped building. The 61-year-old building that sits on the edge of Elmer Thomas Park in 2005  asbestos coating was found and exposed on the inside of the dome. In January, the Department of Environmental Quality began working to make the building habitable once again.

The project didn't cost the city a thing. The $500,000 project was paid for by the DEQ. It is part of a program that works to transfer National Guard armories to local city governments.

Site project manager Brittany Myers Downs says the most difficult part of the whole process was tackling the building's dome.

"One reason is because it is very tall, and also the dome itself is about 10,000 square feet of surface. And because it is tall, we had to get a lot of scaffolding in there and that is really what it is. People are way up high in their asbestos suits scraping and removing the asbestos," Myers Downs explained.

In addition to the asbestos problem, she says crews also had to remove lead-based paint that was discovered in the nearby garages.

"In the garages, there was a lot of lead-based paint that was painted on the walls and some paint on the floors. And in this building, there were some beams and some doors that were lead-based paint hazards," Myers Downs explained.

Lawton Assistant City Manager Jim Russell says, now that they have been given the all clear, they can move forward with breathing new life into the building.

"One of the biggest projects we are looking at now is the potential of turning it into some sort of an indoor youth center and locating our Parks and Recreation offices here as well. Looking at an indoor basketball court," Russell said.

But before they can do that, Russell says their work is far from being finished.

"You know, naturally things start deteriorating. We have also had quite a bit of vandalism. Breaking out walls, busting out windows and things like that. So, we have got a lot of things that we will probably end up just gutting the office space and starting over," Russell explained.

He says the building will also need to be outfitted with new heating, air conditioning and electrical wiring.

None of the plans for the future use of the building are set in stone. There will have to be a City Council vote for the final decision.

This building is the 50th Army National Guard armory that has been cleaned up and re-purposed in Oklahoma.