The renovation of the Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel has been delayed, giving the public until June to get a glimpse of the iconic landmark before it is closed for four years.
The $68 million renovation has been planned several times and subsequently delayed. The most recent closure of the chapel was scheduled to begin Jan. 1, 2019.
This time, the academy blamed the delay on bureaucracy, saying “evaluation of the contract proposals for the repair project will take longer than planned.”
Bureaucratic tangles are nothing new for the chapel, one of the planet’s most recognizable churches. Pentagon budget-cutters looked to save a few bucks when building the soaring aluminum spires, replacing a complex system of plastic seals with caulk and putty.
The cheaper method came at a cost. The chapel roof has leaked since it opened in 1962.
The renovation is planned to fix those leaks by restoring the plastic seals that architects planned for the place. But it’s always tougher to fix a construction mistake than it was to build the place the first time.
The renovation requires work crews to gut the chapel and peel away its aluminum skin.
During the planned renovation, workers will also pull out the 4,423 pipes of the pipe organ for refit.
The chapel, known worldwide for its award-winning design, is a registered historic landmark. So, like other academy buildings, the renovation will also return it to its previous glory with few noticeable changes.
Every stick of furniture, the soaring stained glass and each piece of art will be stored during the work and carefully replaced.
The new chapel closure date — June 17 — will keep the building open through the school’s graduation and allow another tradition: scores of weddings that follow the graduation ceremony.
Cadets at the academy are not allowed to marry while attending the school, but they can date and get engaged. The result is a rush to the altar every spring as newly graduated cadets take spouses.
The crush of wedded bliss was one of the biggest headaches to accompany the chapel’s four-year closure. Other options at the school, including the superintendent’s living room, have been considered to stand in for the chapel.
Visitors can see the chapel from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until the June closure.
To get there, take exit 156 off Interstate 25 and head west. Visitors need valid ID and vehicle documents and can expect a search.