The 1950s era WSMR Sierra Chapel is receiving a major renovation to include asbestos removal, new exterior sidings, new air conditioning units, and new flooring.
The chapel was originally built as a “cantonment chapel” meant to last a maximum of five to six years.
“There are not that many of these chapels left,” said Post Chapel Chaplain Lt. Col. Bradley West.
“They weren’t built to last 50 or 60 years,” said WSMR Chapel NCOIC Staff Sgt. Sean McCormick.
The flooring will be replaced with linoleum where the pews are and carpet down the aisles and on the main stage. The pews themselves will be refinished. The historic windows will remain, however new lights and ceiling fans will replace the current ones in the facility. What’s most exciting for West is the eight new a/c units that will provide heating and cooling for the facility and new electrical rewiring for the entire facility.
“I used to have nightmares about the old wiring system,” West said.
“No more swamp coolers,” he added.
The track lights on the main stage of the chapel will be removed and the stage itself will be leveled off. The area across from the restrooms known as the “common area” will now have storage units and work surfaces.
Joe Jojola, a WSMR community member and employee who has been attending mass at the WSMR Chapel with his family since 1985, said he only remembers one other mild renovation that took place within the 30 years he has been attending.
“I’m glad to hear that they’re refinishing the pews because those are part of the history of the church,” Jojola said.
He said some chapel community members have come together to store the current light fixtures he says are worth $650 to $700 each. Jojola said they are hoping to have another work order submitted, once the renovation is completed, to remove the new light fixtures and replace them with the historic light fixtures.
“It’s kind of bittersweet, sweet in the sense that it needed an uplift and new wiring,” Jojola said. “The bitter part is we don’t want to see any of the original items removed.”
West said the lighting fixtures must be removed during the current renovation due to the current work order, but they are working with community members to be able to give them the chapel they want. Prior to the start of the renovation, West made it a point to meet with community members to advise them of renovations and changes that would take place.
West calls the funding for the renovation a bit of a “miracle.” He said he wasn’t expecting the project to start until much later when it could be determined if “end of the year” money would be allotted to help fund the project. However, West said Army FMWR had the money available to begin the project earlier this year.
“This is exciting,” McCormick said.
Mass is being held in the old Mountain View Café building during the renovations at Sierra Chapel. Construction is scheduled to be completed in mid-August.