GROTON -- No more slipping into semidry wetsuits.
Just a quick glimpse inside the nearly 100-year-old brick building, which housed the 40-plus waterfront divers assigned to Naval Submarine Base New London until about a month ago, shows why the new space is more than a welcome sight.
Navy and government officials will gather at the north end of the sub base Thursday afternoon for a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new diver locker.
The state gave the Navy $4.65 million to pay for the new building, which brings state investments in the sub base to $14 million since 2009.
The old building was once a torpedo shop. Master Diver Joseph Cannon explained how the ceiling would leak at times, and the sinks would get stopped up. If you weren't one of the first to take a shower, you couldn't expect hot water, he said. Every room felt tight and crammed.
"I can't express enough how much we actually appreciate this," Cannon said.
The first thought Navy Diver 2nd Class James Mostek, 22, had when he walked into the new building, which is more than double the size of the old one, was how much more space there is. More space in the locker room. More space for training.
The new facility will be used by divers assigned to the waterfront who conduct underwater maintenance on submarines homeported at the sub base.
"Anything you can do to a ship or submarine to keep it out of dry dock," Navy Diver 1st Class Nate Martin, 39, said of the divers' work. "Dry dock expenses are massive."
The new facility is broken into two wings -- essentially adminstration on one side and equipment on the other.
The administration side features a small kitchen and lounge area with a flatscreen TV. In the old building, the majority of the divers had to share one computer, but now they have several they can use to complete required online certification and training.
"Because it's brand new, you can take ownership of it," Martin said. "It's yours from the start."
Some of the divers are fairly new to the sub base. One of them, Navy Diver 3rd Class Michael Felton, 22, only spent a short time at the old building.
Felton said the new facility is "really nice" and he was looking forward to using the drying room for his wetsuit and the rewarming room.
The rewarming room -- where divers can sit in tubs of hot water or in the sauna to warm up -- is on the equipment side of the building.
The drying room is climate controlled and dries the divers' wetsuits so they don't have to put on cold ones in the morning. And the halls, bathrooms and locker room areas all have heated floors.
"So when we come out of the cold water or the cold air, it's nice to know that that's there, especially with the winter coming," Mostek said.