Former Navy base in WV goes on the online auction block

Gazette-Mail file photo
The former U.S. Navy base at Sugar Grove in Pendleton County.

Online bidding has opened for the former Naval Information Operations Center support base at Sugar Grove, which was decommissioned on Sept. 30, ending a 60-year Navy presence in Pendleton County and shuttering West Virginia’s sole active-duty military installation.

The online auction for the former Navy base began on Feb. 9, according to Susan B. Webb, project manager for the General Services Administration’s Real Property Utilization and Disposal division.

“We have not set our open house dates, but I expect the first one will be in the next few weeks,” Webb said.

The now-vacant property, according to its listing on GSA Auctions at http://realestatesales.gov, is “ideal for a corporate training center, a university or academic campus, a spa/clinic, movie studio or mountain resort. Sugar Grove Station is a wonderfully maintained, practically self-sustaining community nestled in the West Virginia mountains.”

The 122.85-acre base supported up to 450 Navy personnel and their dependents, who lived in a self-contained community that included 80 single-family homes on tree-shaded streets, a three-story suite-style dormitory that accommodated 105 residents, guest cabins, fire and police stations, a retail area, bowling alley, racquetball and basketball courts, a swimming pool, a daycare building and a fireplace equipped community center that included a restaurant, bar and adjacent picnic pavilion. The South Fork of the Potomac River flows along one side of the base, offering almost-backyard fishing opportunities.

“This and much more comprise this wonderful fenced community,” according to the GSA Auctions text, accompanied by a logo depicting “Sugar Grove Station,” which features a water tower, several houses, a fire station and a cluster of evergreen trees fronted by a flowing stream, with three mountain peaks in the background. The base borders the George Washington National Forest, which encompasses its eastern backdrop — the 4300-foot-high ridge-line of Shenandoah Mountain.

While the state Division of Corrections was in contention to have the base transferred to state ownership virtually free of real estate charges for use as a women’s prison, Gov. Tomblin opted in mid-September not to pursue the property. Tomblin cited an estimated $19 million needed to convert the base into a correctional facility, plus an estimated $14 million a year needed to operate it from that point on, in the face of a steep drop-off in state revenue, among reasons for declining the potential gift, valued at about $200 million by county officials.

The closing date for the base’s online auction has not been determined. As of Tuesday, the high bid listed on the GSA website for the property was $1 million. According to rules for the sale, higher bids must be made in increments of at least $150,000.

A larger, more secure, operations center formerly operated by the Navy two miles south of the now for-sale support base is not being sold in the auction. It includes an array of parabolic antennae and an underground communications and cryptology center that continues to operate under the aegis of the National Security Agency.

The Navy’s presence at Sugar Grove began in 1955, when the site was chosen for the installation of a large parabolic antenna to be operated by the Navy Research Laboratory. Later, the base became a Naval Radio Station and handled Atlantic Fleet and international communications chores for the Navy, before transitioning into an electronic intelligence role as a Naval Security Group Activity station.

Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelhammer@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5169, or follow @rsteelhammer on Twitter.

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