COLORADO SPRINGS — On Thursday, the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) provided an update regarding the renovations to the Cadet Chapel.

Work began in September 2019 after an initial delay from January of that year, with the chapel slated to be closed for four years while renovations were completed. That timeline has steadily been pushed back however, as crews discovered more asbestos than was originally predicted in the iconic 60 year old building, but the plan to restore every facet to its original state remains the same.

“Whether you’re a cadet, a graduate, or among the thousands of visitors each year who enter our gates, we know the place this amazing building has in the hearts of many who support our Academy,” said Lieutenant General Richard Clark, the Academy’s superintendent. “We’re disappointed too. We’re disappointed we can’t open the chapel doors as soon as we originally thought, but in the end, we’re doing the right work at the right time for the right reason: preserving this national historic landmark for generations of cadets, graduates and Americans.”

Carlos Cruz-Gonzalez, the Academy’s director of logistics, engineering, and force protection, knew renovating the chapel from top to bottom after decades of temporary repairs would be a massive undertaking, but the amount of asbestos comes as an added challenge, requiring an additional $60 million. Before the project, chronic leakage problems degraded the structure, and efforts to fix these leaks relied on sealants that no longer attach to the building’s aluminum siding.

“This is a historic project, the only one of its type in the world, let alone the Air Force,” Cruz-Gonzalez said. “Original reconstruction repairs and the additional asbestos abatement are essential elements in the reconstruction and preservation of this Colorado landmark.”

The $158 million contract was awarded by the Air Force Civil Engineering Center in 2019, with renovations including completely replacing the building’s aluminum siding, stiffening the steel upper structure, installing a new water barrier, removing and cleaning the building’s original 24,000 pieces of stained glass, and restoring the pews and the chapel’s two enormous organs to their original state.

Currently, the chapel renovation is slated to be completed in late 2026, with reopening to the public expected in 2027. It remains hidden from public view under a 150-foot tall white environmental shelter that allows work to continue year-round despite Colorado’s sometimes volatile weather conditions.