On Post

Construction Begins on Two Projects

aerial view of Chessie Trail bridge

A rendering of the pedestrian bridge carrying the Virginia Military Institute-owned Chessie Nature Trail over the South River.—Courtesy VMI Communications & Marketing.

In December 2020, construction began on two projects. On post, the construction began on the new VMI aquatics center. Out in Rockbridge County, work began to replace the pedestrian bridge that carries the Virginia Military Institute-owned Chessie Nature Trail over the South River.

Just before Christmas, initial steps began for VMI’s new aquatics center, officially known as the Corps Physical Training Facility Phase III (Aquatic Center). The center, which is expected to be completed in approximately 24 months, will be built alongside North Main Street, immediately adjacent and connected to the Corps Physical Training Facility. The center will also be connected to the Knights of Pythias building.

“It will attach to the new aquatics center via a glass walkway,” said Col. Keith Jarvis ’82, VMI director of construction, of the Knights of Pythias building, also known as the American Legion building, which was moved in 2014 to make way for the Corps Physical Training Facility. “As part of the project, we’ll renovate the legion building, and it’ll be utilized for conference and office space that supports the aquatics center.”

The pool will be 50 meters long and 25 yards wide, a feature that allows swimmers to compete in meets that measure distances in meters and those that measure distances in yards. The pool will also allow for water polo, diving competitions, and for high water entry exercises, often done in years past in the Maury River. The existing pool in Clark King Hall, constructed in 1969, when the Corps of Cadets was much smaller, has remained in demand not only for swimming and diving practice, but also water polo, ROTC activities, and physical education classes.

State funding—about three-quarters of total cost of the $44.2 million facility—was included in the biennial budget proposed by Gov. Ralph Northam ’81. That funding remained in the budget as it passed through both houses of the General Assembly. The remainder of the overall cost of the project came from private donations.

When the aquatics center is completed, it will bring to an end the phased approach for athletic facility renovations and additions that began in 2014, which included renovations of Cormack and Cocke Halls and the building of the Corps Physical Training Facility, which opened in the fall of 2016, providing significant and enhanced indoor fitness training elements for cadets, as well as home to the Institute’s NCAA track teams. The building provides a venue for ROTC and individual cadet physical training in inclement weather. Altogether, the three phases of the Corps Physical Training Facility cost $164 million.

During construction of the aquatics center, community members and visitors can expect short-term road closures on Main Street. Also, a temporary sidewalk will be provided, along with lighting to facilitate pedestrian access along Main Street.

A few miles from VMI, orange cones mark work to build a pedestrian bridge carrying the Virginia Military Institute-owned Chessie Nature Trail over the South River. The bridge is expected to be replaced over the coming months.

The original bridge was washed away by Hurricane Isabel in 2003, and ever since then, trail users have had to detour onto Stuartsburg Road to continue on the trail, which is a 7.2-mile journey from Lexington to Buena Vista.

“The Chessie Nature Trial is a gem for both residents and visitors to our community,” said Dan Lyons, chair of the Rockbridge County board of supervisors. “This project is a classic example of regional cooperation involving our three localities, our regional Industrial Development Authority, our Chessie Nature Trail Advisory Committee, and the Virginia Military Institute. We are very appreciative to all involved, and especially to VMI for its project leadership and funding contributions.”

A majority of the funding for the $2.08 million project is coming from a grant from the Eastern Federal Lands Access Program and Virginia Military Institute. Additional funding came from the IDA, which is made up of community members from Lexington, Buena Vista, and Rockbridge County.

Work began in the final weeks of December and will continue through the winter and spring months. Completion is planned for early May, just in time for the busy trail and river season. Plans for a new bridge have now been in the works for several years, but the project had been held up due to adjustments to the project scope to align with the project budget and site constraints. F&B Contractors from Bedford, Virginia, were selected for this project.

During the months of construction, the Chessie Nature Trail will remain open to the public. A limited closure from Old Shepherd Road to the north boundary of trail parking along Stuartsburg Road at the South River Bridge will be offset with a detour. Informational signage will be in place to direct trail users. Those accessing the river in the area of the construction will need to find alternate locations for entry and exit during this time.

  • Mary Price VMI Communications & Marketing