Alexandria City Council considers buying land for new Armory

City leaders have talked about the idea for decades and the topic came up again at the Alexandria City Council’s Monday, May 24 meeting.

The Alexandria National Guard Armory has been a fixture at 310 Broadway for nearly 100 years. (Al Edenloff / Echo Press)

Is a new site for the Alexandria National Guard Armory in the works?

City leaders have talked about the idea for decades and the topic came up again at the Alexandria City Council’s Monday, May 24, meeting.

But details are scarce because negotiations are ongoing.

The council voted to close a portion of its meeting to talk about “acquiring land for a Minnesota National Guard readiness center and maintenance facility.”

In the brief two paragraphs listing why the meeting was being closed, a specific parcel was listed -- a 204-acre site northwest of the Lake Burgen rest area, along West Lake Burgen Road SE, which is owned by Roers Living Trust, according to Douglas County tax records.


Under Minnesota's open meeting laws, governments are allowed to close meetings to "develop or consider offers or counteroffers for the purchase or sale of real or personal property." Once a sale is finalized, the information becomes public.

This is far from the first time the council has discussed the idea of moving the Armory from its location at 310 Broadway to a more spacious site.

At a March 8 work session, for example, City Planner Mike Weber provided the history of the city's discussions with the Minnesota National Guard over the last 20 years regarding the siting and construction of a new readiness center.

At one time time, the Douglas County Fairgrounds was a potential site.

The Armory’s history dates back 100 years. Here’s information from the Douglas County Historical Society:

  • August 1921: Construction of the Armory started. The brick structure features a four-color brown texture, a Minnesota product. The entrance was built wide enough so that a column of squads could march through it down to the street.

  • July 1941: In order to get large guns in and out of the Armory, a decision was made at a City Council meeting to remove the shrubbery and add parking space.

  • May 1997: Jim Clayton, chair of the National Guard Citizens Committee, said that Alexandria was one of the top three places in the state where the National Guard was considering building a new Armory. Discussions about this had been going on since 1984. At that time, Clayton said the Guard hoped to build on a five-acre site in the Douglas County Fairgrounds. Some issues he listed with the current location are its lack of parking availability, storage space and handicap accessibility.

  • May 2000: The National Guard asked the Douglas County Fair Board for two more acres than they originally agreed on. The Fair Board said it would allow three acres, but the Guard said it needed at least five for enough parking space. The Fair Board was hesitant to have the Guard take up parking for the fair, but Mayor John Perino argued that fairgoers could use that parking space as well as see exhibits and have additional bathrooms from the indoor facility.

  • September 2000: The Fair Board voted against giving the proposed land for a new Armory site. Council members saw this as a major setback for the Armory proposal, which had already been in the works for 16 years, so they sent a letter to the Fair Board urging them to reconsider.

  • October 2000: The Fair Board agreed to a land swap with the city so that the five-acre armory site could be right next to the Runestone Community Center. This way, the public would have easier access and money would be saved since they wouldn’t need to extend the water or sewer lines very far.

  • November 2000: The land swap agreement was ditched for negotiations on a long-term lease instead. The Fair Board suggested they provide the same 2.7-acre piece of land that the city asked for, but extend the lease for 50 more years beyond the 2035 date to 2085.

  • June 2006: New footings and a handicap-accessible ramp were put in place as part of a $1.4 million remodeling project.

Al Edenloff is the editor of the twice-weekly Echo Press. He started his journalism career when he was in 10th grade, writing football and basketball stories for the Parkers Prairie Independent.
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