CHICAGO (WLS) -- Following years of controversy, a massive new training center for Chicago police and firefighters is coming to the city's West Side.
Standing at attention, new police and fire recruits are about to start their careers with state-of-the-art training.
The ribbon was cut Wednesday on the new $170 million training facility near Kilbourn and Chicago avenues.
"Don't let anyone ever tell you this city doesn't have your back, we do each and every one of you," said Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
Lightfoot directed the end of her remarks to the new recruits, as she is just a few weeks away from an election where crime is the number one issue.
The facility, which is still in the process of being built, features a huge outdoor and indoor simulation village. Just about every scenario police officers and firefighters encounter is being recreated.
The center was named after Police Commander Paul Bauer and Firefighter MaShawn Plummer, who were both killed in the line of duty.
"It's awesome. It's huge. Paul would be very honored and very humbled for this facility to be named after him, and we are too," said Erin Bauer, Paul's wife.
When the center was first proposed by then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel, it generated a great deal of controversy. There were many protests against it by the group #NoCopAcademy.
"Police killed more people in the U.S. in 2022 than in any other year on record, and increased spending on training and militarization will only continue that trend," the group said in a statement on Wednesday.
CPD Supt. David Brown said the training facility will likely reverse that trend.
"This training facility will hopefully put COPA out of business we will do the jobs in the right ways, respectable ways and a constitutional way," Brown said.
#NoCopAcademy members said the money should instead be invested in schools, affordable housing and mental health. The $170 million is also being used to build a Boys and Girls Club on the grounds, which some West Side residents strongly support.
"It's an opportunity for our children to be up close and personal and let them see police, fire and EMTs that look like them," said Pastor Joseph Kyles with The Promise Church of Chicago.
Despite the high price tag, the mayor said the facility will eventually pay for itself, with outside fire and law enforcement agencies using it for their own training.