CORONADO, Calif. (NNS) -- After more than $125,000 in renovations and improvements over the past several months, the chapel on board USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) officially reopened its doors Feb. 8 as "Capilla del Cielo" during a dedication ceremony aboard the ship.
The new name comes from a tie to "Rancho del Cielo," the Santa Barbara, Calif., ranch once owned by President Ronald Reagan and used as the "Western Whitehouse" during his administration.
Sherman Rogers, a native of Bloomington, Ind., donated the funds for the renovations after visiting the chapel as part of a tour of the ship. He said he wanted to help create a more appealing place for Sailors to worship.
"What happens here is an amazing thing," said Rogers. "I'm grateful that you gave me a small role to play on the ship."
Rogers and his family were invited as special guests during the dedication ceremony to see the completed project.
Renovations to the chapel started in May as Ronald Reagan entered into a six-month planned incremental availability (PIA) where structural changes, upgrades and renovations were made throughout the ship.
During the PIA period, contractors worked full-time, five days a week, to complete the project while Ronald Reagan Sailors continued their religious programs aboard a nearby barge.
"Before renovations, the chapel looked fundamentally like the rest of the ship," said Religious Program Specialist 1st Class (FMF) David Winter, the leading petty officer of Ronald Reagan's Religious Ministries Department.
According to Winter, the chapel lacked personality and charm in its industrial environment. Winter said the renovations helped the chapel to evolve from yet another workspace on an aircraft carrier into a more homely and relaxing environment for Sailors to worship.
Capt. Terry B. Kraft, Ronald Reagan's commanding officer, also attended the dedication ceremony.
"It takes people to give a ship its personality, and it's always special for someone to donate to this ship," said Kraft.
Since the completion of the renovations, Winter said there have been hundreds of visitors who have come to the ship just to see the chapel.
"The plans for our chapel have already been sent to the PCU George H.W. Bush (CVN 77)," said Winter. "Our chapel has become the new standard for future chapels [aboard Navy ships]."
The chapel dedication also drew a small crowd of Sailors who had previously served aboard Ronald Reagan.
"This was my first aircraft carrier, and I wouldn't change that," said Religious Program Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Maria Pedraza, who said she was assigned to Ronald Reagan for four years and was present for the start of the renovations and wanted to see the completed project.
"This chapel is an important part of what we do to make sure Sailors have what they need," added Pedraza.
Ronald Reagan was commissioned in July 2003, making it the ninth and newest Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. The ship is named after the 40th U.S. president, and carries the motto of "Peace through Strength," a recurrent theme during the Reagan presidency.
For more news from USS Ronald Reagan, visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn76/.