It really lets us know that they've taken a vast interest in our training – Cadet Jeff Erb

At the same time the RCMP is expanding, so too are the Regina facilities that churn out new Mounties.

RCMP Commissioner William Elliott presided over the official sod-turning Monday for the first of three new dormitories – one more piece of a $150-million plan started three years ago to rejuvenate and modernize the RCMP Training Academy.

"The expansion of our facilities here at Depot is fundamental to our ability to continue to provide policing services across the country," Elliott told reporters.

A member of Troop 1, Cadet Jeff Erb, who hails from Erb's Cove, N.B., applauded Ottawa's investment in the facility.

"It really lets us know that they've taken a vast interest in our training, and lets us know that they want to train and give us the best resources to become the best police officers we can be," he said.

Elliott noted about 1,800 cadets have been sent to training this year as the force grows and works to replace significant numbers of Mounties due to retire.

"In order for us to continue to meet the needs of Canadians and the communities we serve, we have to attract more and more cadets and to provide them with world-class training. This is a world-class training facility," he said.

Ten temporary dorms have been set up since 2006 to house the increasing number of cadets. The new dorms will expand capacity by 640 beds.

The first will be the Fort Dufferin Dorm, named for the Manitoba jumping-off point for the Mounties' 1874 "March West."

Winnipeg architect Jerald Peters said the contemporary design reflects practical needs, but is also in keeping with surrounding heritage buildings and incorporates the Mounties' trademark colours, including the stetson's sable, blue of breeches, and red serge.

Construction is to begin in January 2010, with completion by August 2011.

The ceremonies also marked the official opening of the new Division Mess, a renovated Drill Hall, and the Centennial Building, where construction is still under way. Officially opened in 1973 by Queen Elizabeth as the force's regimental museum, the Centennial Building will house a 225-seat lecture hall and the simulators used in training.

Cadet Terri Lee, of Chilliwack, B.C., is looking forward to graduation this month in the Drill Hall – a 1929 riding stable that recently underwent $2.83 million in renovations – and sharing it with her family.