Cindy Bither
Administrative Assistant
P: (540) 464-7207
F: (540) 464-7443

111 Smith Hall
Lexington, VA 24450

VMI Breaks Ground for New Track and Training Facilities


LEXINGTON, Va., May 2, 2014 -- Under clearing spring skies following days of rain, ground was broken yesterday for Phases I and II of the $122 million Corps Physical Training Facilities. The project, which is expected to take 25 months to complete, will include construction of a new building and renovation of two others on the VMI post.

Leading the team of 10 people wielding ceremonial shovels for the event was Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III ’62, VMI superintendent. He was joined by several members of the VMI administration, along with representatives of the architect, HKS Inc., and the contractor, Whiting-Turner.

“This is an exciting day at VMI,” said Peay just before he and the others began to dig. “We’ve had an incredible number of projects here at VMI, and I’m as excited about this as any other.”

The Corps Physical Training Facility, which is part of Peay’s Vision 2039 for the Institute, has been in the conceptual and planning stages for over five years. The Virginia General Assembly approved funding for the project in 2013.

Phase I of the project will include a new 205,000-square-foot indoor training facility across Diamond Street from Cameron Hall. Construction will begin Monday, May 5, and the building is expected to be complete in July 2016.

The new, $80 million building will include an underground parking deck with about 126 spaces, a state-of-the-art hydraulic track, obstacle and high ropes courses, a 34-foot climbing wall, locker rooms, and restrooms. The facility will be used for cadet and ROTC training. It will also be home to VMI’s NCAA track team, which has been using Cormack Hall for its events.

“VMI is more excited about this project than many that have been constructed over the past decade,” said Peay immediately after the groundbreaking. “It’s so multipurpose in its capability.”

The superintendent noted that not only will the building benefit the Corps of Cadets, who oftentimes find that Lexington’s harsh winters hamper their physical training efforts, but will also be of use to the community. The facility will be available for community use on a rental basis, as are many other VMI facilities, and it is expected to be an attractive venue for high school and college track meets.

“This facility will be one of the best Olympic tracks on the East Coast,” said Peay.

In planning for the construction of the indoor training facility, much has been done to minimize the environmental impact, said Col. Keith Jarvis, deputy director of construction. The building site includes a small stream, Town Branch, which carries storm water away from the city of Lexington and into the Maury River. Jarvis said that plans call for Town Branch to be expanded into a detention basin that will slowly release its waters into the river. The new building will be supported by concrete piers straddling the reconfigured Town Branch.

In addition, a historic structure will be moved to accommodate the facility. Jarvis explained that the Knights of Pythias building, a structure important to the history of Lexington’s African-American community, will be relocated approximately 100 yards south and placed on a new foundation. That move will take place this summer.

During construction, parking will be eliminated along Main Street across from the project site, and also along part of Diamond Street nearest Cameron Hall. Public parking will be restored once the project is completed.

“VMI will do everything possible to work with the community and alert them to disruptions of traffic and parking,” said Col. Stewart MacInnis, director of VMI communications and marketing.

Peay added that the entrance into Lexington from U.S. 11 heading south will be aesthetically improved once the indoor training facility has been completed.

“Two years on this project will go by quickly and all of the disruption will be soon forgotten,” the superintendent said. “There’ll be great joy when the community sees this particular facility.”

Phase II of the project, which will run concurrently with Phase I, includes the renovation of Cormack Hall as a home for VMI’s physical education department. The building, which was first an equestrian training facility, will be renovated to include classrooms, weight training rooms, mat sports venues with seating, and facilities for VMI’s new exercise science minor. The newly renovated Cormack Hall will be home to VMI’s NCAA wrestling program. Work will begin this summer and should be completed by the summer of 2015.

Rounding out Phase II will be the renovation of Cocke Hall, which has long served as VMI’s main gymnasium, as well as a venue for dances and other social activities. Cocke Hall will be equipped with a brand-new weight room and strength training facilities, along with new locker rooms. The building will then be used by cadets, faculty, and staff for their fitness needs.

Work on the Cocke Hall renovation will begin in the summer of 2015 and is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2016.

The superintendent added that after years of planning, he and others are energized to see dirt being moved.

“We’re excited to break ground and be under way with the first of these three projects that will serve the Corps of Cadets so well,” said Peay.

--Mary Price