Air Force's Holaday Athletic Center construction right on time

May 11, 2011
photo - The Air Force Academy's new Holaday Athletic Center under construction Wednesday.  Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette
The Air Force Academy's new Holaday Athletic Center under construction Wednesday. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette 

The rate at which the Holaday Athletic Center is being built is almost as impressive as the structure itself.

In fall, trees were being cleared out and the ground had to be leveled to start laying the foundation for the $15 million practice facility, which will house many of the Falcons’ athletic teams in inclement weather, most notably the football team.

With summer still a few weeks away, the building has quickly sprouted up next to the Cadet Field House. There are still some glass and polycarbonate sections to be put in place, and the field needs to be laid down, which is the most time-consuming part of the project that remains. But construction is going as well as could be expected.

“We’re on time, on budget, and exceeded the fundraising needed for this,” said Mark Hille, the vice president of USAFA Endowment, which gathers private donations for projects at the academy. “This is an unqualified success.”

The dedication ceremony is set for July 22. That is well ahead of the start of football training camp, which will begin Aug. 5. Football coach Troy Calhoun credited the “remarkably coordinated effort” between USAFA Endowment and the G.E. Johnson Construction Co. for the efficient job on the building, and singled out G.E. Johnson president Jim Johnson.

“G.E. Johnson has applied an enormous amount of resources,” Calhoun said. “Jim Johnson's personnel arrive early and rapidly move equipment for efficient and quality construction.”

The Holaday Athletic Center will cost about $15 million but USAFA Endowment raised about $16.4 million. The additional funds could be used for maintenance on the building.

The biggest challenge through the past few months has been the many windy days. That has made it hard to put in the polycarbonate panels, but Hille said they had enough flexibility in the construction schedule that it hasn’t been a problem.

July 22 will be a big day for Air Force. The Holaday Athletic Center is, after all, the largest privately funded capital project in academy history. Hille said that many people among the alumni, benefactors and local community will be invited to attend the ribbon cutting. The project evolved from an idea to build a $3 million indoor practice bubble, to perhaps a little more expensive temporary structure, to the full structure that will be open in the summer.

Hille said the building wouldn’t have been done until much later in the year, or later, had Bart and Lynn Holaday not stepped forward with a $5 million donation. Lynn Holaday passed away Oct. 1 from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.  

One of the notable things about the building is how much of a presence it is by the athletic fields. It seems to tower over everything else nearby.

“It’s absolutely impressive, especially when you’re inside,” Hille said. “To me, it looks bigger from the inside than the outside. I’m blown away by the raw square footage of the structure.”

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