Mayor Backer shares armory memories

$20.7 million facility to be built in 18 mos.

Staff photo by Fritz Busch The Minnesota National Guard (MNG) breaks ground for the New Ulm Readiness Center adjacent to a new field maintenance shop on the west edge of New Ulm Friday. From left, Master Sgt. Adam Kelly, Leo Daly Project Designer Lynn Bjornrud, Terra Construction Manager Chris Tinklenberg, MNG Project Manager/Facility Maintenance Officer Russ Ekhom, Col. Troy Fink, New Ulm Mayor Kathleen Backer, Lt. Col. Mark Gile, Maj. Michael Thompson, Capt. Christopher Barich and SFC Stewart Geldart.

NEW ULM — New Ulm Mayor Kathleen Backer talked about what she loves most about the century-old Minnesota National Guard Armory Friday.

Backer said the community benefited greatly from the brick, fortress-like armory that resembles a German castle.

“Look at the ever-lasting impact that this facility has had on tens of thousands of people. But it’s more than that, It’s about partnerships that will continue,” she said at a Minnesota National Guard Readiness Center groundbreaking ceremony on the armory gym floor.

Backer later shoveled dirt at the site of a new $20.7 million, 40,000 square foot Minnesota National Guard Readiness Center adjacent to a new maintenance shop on the west edge of New Ulm.

“The City of New Ulm and Minnesota National Guard partnership will continue to build a legacy that benefits so many. Thank you so much for your investment in our community. New Ulm is proud, thankful and deeply appreciative of having a rich tradition with the Minnesota National Guard,” she added.

“When I grew up nearby, the armory was a place to roller skate and watch professional wrestling. I still have (pro wrestler) ‘Mad Dog’ Vachon’s autograph,” Backer said.

Her armory memories included volleyball and basketball games, weddings and wedding anniversaries.

“Designed to house approximately 215 personnel and nearly 90 vehicles, the new readiness center will serve as a valuable resource for our soldiers and community,” said Army Maj. Gen. Shawn Manke.

“There’s a lot of nostalgia here. This armory has been a cornerstone in New Ulm for over a century. The new facility will offer advanced training capability. We lay the future foundation today for soldiers, ensuring they have the best resources to serve the community and the country,” Manke said.

“This project is a testament to the dedication and support of everyone involved. I’m grateful for the unity to champion this cause,” he added.

Phase one of the modernization effort in New Ulm began in 2022 with the opening of a new, $11 million field maintenance shop. That facility tripled the size of New Ulm’s 1950s era facility.

Phase two will feature a new readiness center next to the maintenance shop. The new armory features classrooms, a fitness center, learning center, LED lights, solar panels, and a hybrid heat pump mechanical system.

The City of New Ulm bought 30 acres of land for $1 million on the west edge of New Ulm several years ago in preparation for the MNG facility projects.

The new readiness center could mean bringing in several times as many soldiers as the existing armory can handle.

Coordination and vision for the project began more than a decade ago to identify a site for the project that includes a years-long process of requesting federal military construction funding.


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