Building Boom at Sub Base
By Jennifer McDermott
The Day
October 24, 2010
Groton - The intense activity at the Naval Submarine Base now is reminiscent of the time 95 years ago when the first submarines arrived in Groton, the base commander said recently.
"Back then, it was new and different and changing the area," Capt. Marc W. Denno said of the arrival of the first submarines in October 1915.
"Today with the new subs coming out of Electric Boat and being homeported here, and the construction and infrastructure changes, it's similar in the life cycle of the base."
The annual price tag of construction and demolition in Groton currently totals about $100 million, Denno said.
Named the Navy's first submarine base in 1916, the site today is home to 15 fast-attack submarines, including some of the new Virginia-class submarines built by Electric Boat and its shipbuilding teammate Northrop Grumman Newport News. And nearly 10,000 people - 7,500 active-duty personnel and 2,000 civilians and contractors - work there.
The Pentagon targeted the base for closure in 2005. But it was spared, and since then, the federal and state governments have been investing in major improvements there.
Next month, for example, the Submarine Learning Center will move into a new $9 million building. A new building for port operations and a small-craft maintenance facility are also under construction.
One of the piers is being replaced by a wide, modern one, a $46 million project expected to be complete in the spring. Construction has also begun on a new commissary, which should be done in 2013. The Navy Exchange store also will expand.
The economic downturn has slowed two projects in which the Navy had planned to allow private developers to lease underutilized property at the base, Denno said.
The Navy is negotiating with the Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative to develop a peak-power electric generation plant, but a contract has not been finalized. Another parcel may be used for retail or recreational development.
A fuel-cell energy power plant is to be installed in the summer of 2011, which will provide electricity as a demonstration project.
The state gave the Navy $7.65 million last year to make improvements at the sub base and, in September, formally offered the Navy another $3.22 million for two more projects.
Next year, the Navy plans to spend $19 million for repairs along the waterfront. Painting, paving and adding more parking spots are all ongoing, and a new indoor firing range is in the design phase.
Other future projects include a new fitness center, more modern piers and a new headquarters for Submarine Group Two. All of the work, Denno said, will help maintain the base's "vitality and viability."
Navy Region Mid-Atlantic recently announced that the Groton base won the installation excellence award for the region. Groton will go on to compete against the winners from the other Navy regions.