I know it has been awhile since I last wrote you concerning our Class Gift – the renovation of the Air Gardens. My delay in writing is because the project has been caught up with some bureaucratic delays, funding issues, and the impacts from COVID 19.
However, the Foundation has done a fantastic job in overcoming all of these challenges, and the project is underway and making great progress. I have attached a number of pictures to demonstrate the progress to date. We believe completion will be in early 2021 and we will celebrate that with a dedication ceremony. The issues that have delayed award of contract and construction are as follows.
- First and foremost, the bids that came in were much higher than the AF’s original estimates and more than had been raised.
- Second, the AF had numerous bureaucratic hurdles it had to overcome to put the renovation on contract.
To resolve the disconnect between funding available and required, a number of modifications were made to the renovation. First, the plan to create 5-inch pools with black granite was modified, when it was discovered upon inspection, that the foundations of the original 3 foot pools was still intact. The new plan is to leave the pools at the current depth of 3 feet, and to simply coat the existing pools with a new cementitious finish as well as provide a new sidewalk material that is more durable and easier to install than the original specified material. Second, the black granite was replaced with a black cement coating due to the cost of the granite and the labor intensive one-by-one installation was over $1M. The main reason the initial plan included the black granite was to give the illusion of an infinity pool. It is believed the black coating will do the same and a mockup is being done to show to the Class Committees from all three classes involved in the project. Additionally, the number of trees that were to be planted was reduced from 392 to 240. This reduction of trees should not detract from aesthetics of the Gardens and will actually enhance the health and survival of the trees. Principally, it leaves room for future memorials and outdoor classrooms. It is important to understand the restoration project is a wholesale reconstruction of the entire Air Gardens to include piping, mechanical, electrical, lighting, hardscaping and landscaping. Except for the pools themselves, the entire 4 acre parcel is being rebuilt – including a new waterline that serves the Cadet Area.
Another main desire all Classes wanted in the renovation was an enhanced sustainment capability that incorporated modern technology and lessons learned to reduce costs and ensure we do have not a deteriorating Air Gardens again in another 50 years. This has been achieved through the following:
- All the pools are on separate pumps and can be drained individually if required – previously the entire Air Gardens had to be drained to deal with any maintenance or sustainment issues.
- All the lighting will be LED which will last longer and less to maintain.
- The trees will be honey locust – the best tree for the Colorado weather and will be planted in rock mulch, not grass. Apparently, the grass created problems for the trees and resulted in high maintenance costs and killed many trees.
With respect to the bureaucratic hurdles, the Foundation offered to take over responsibility for the renovation and essentially took control of the construction of the project. The Foundation hired a grad, Vince Renaud, ’83, as the project manager, let a contract, and got the project underway. As always, give it to a Grad, and get out of the way..thanks Vince.
I am very happy to report that the Class has raised over $840,000 towards our goal of $1M for the project with a participation rate of 34%. There is no doubt in my mind, the Class of 72 – Best in Blue – will meet and exceed our goal!!! Thanks to all of you and the Squadron Reps who have been instrumental in our success to date.
Of note, there will be an All Academy Challenge from 16-20 August, please feel free to kick in an extra donation for our project. We have created a project page at https://falconfunder.usafa.org/project/21794, that makes it easier to donate.
Thank you for all you have done to make this project a reality and I am looking forward to the completion of the renovation, and a ceremony honoring our Class Gift at our 50th Reunion!!!!