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Local News

November 12, 2012

YMCA mulls idea of Port Neches branch

The vacant armory building in Port Neches may one day become home to a branch of the YMCA.

Officials with the YMCA of Southeast Texas are researching ways to survey the Port Neches community to see if there is enough support to add a branch at the Grigsby Avenue location.

The Community Center Advisory Board, which consists of 11 Port Neches residents, were tagged to help research possible uses for the 14,300 square foot former Texas National Guard Armory building earlier this year. The group shared their idea with city leaders and met with representatives of the YMCA before presenting their idea to city council last week.

“The recommendation of the advisory board was to continue in discussion with the YMCA for the possibility of a partnership between the YMCA and the city of Port Neches to operate a recreational facility that would both serve youth and adult members,” City Manager Andrè Wimer said. “At this point there has been very preliminary discussion with the Y and there remains a significant number of details that would have to be addressed before any type of commitment between either party is made.”

Wimer said the first step would be for the Y to determine is sufficient membership exists that would support this type of a facility.

Matt Marchak, board chairman for the YMCA of Southeast Texas, said the Y is in the beginning stages to determine the level of community interest and that board members are very excited about the possibilities.

Pete Hicks, president/CEO of the YMCA of Southeast Texas, echoed the sentiment.

“Basically we need to see if people would join and if they would participate and be a donor,” Hicks said. “As a nonprofit, we have to make sure we have community support.”

With about 7,500 memberships, the Y serves another 3,000 people with programs. At the end of the year, he said, there is a zero based budget.

“What we bring in we spend and we also go out and raise money for scholarship campaign,” he said. “The goal is not to turn anybody away for inability to pay.”

The YMCA also receives assistance through United Way which helps provide scholarships and provide programs.

Port Neches Mayor Glenn Johnson, who organized the formation of the city’s advisory board, pondered the issue of operational cost versus revenue regarding the city’s operation of the facility. Earlier this year city leaders learned the approximate cost to renovate the armory for public use would be about $225,000.

“What should we do with it,” Johnson said during the meeting July meeting. “Manage it or bulldoze it. We don’t want it to become an albatross to the city.”

“We want to make sure we utilize the facility appropriately. We have had people say that wanted to see a community center, then when you start to do the math you see that it would cost some money,” Johnson said. “It needs to pay for itself and right now we don’t know for sure what can be done with it (armory).”

Johnson said he would be pleased to see the YMCA add a Port Neches branch.

“We would more than welcome them here,” he said. “It would be fantastic to have that type of facility in our city and the armory is large enough plus there is enough room for the possibility of rentals. The Y is a wonderful organization. We’re very receptive to whatever they propose.”

In late December 2010, the city opted to discontinue the public rental of the Wright Building, citing scheduling problems at the facility. The Wright Building is currently home to the Port Neches Senior Citizens Center. Prior to the decision to discontinue rentals, the facility was used for wedding receptions and parties.

In January, council discussed possible future uses for the building and what renovations would need to be done to renovate the facility for use as a meeting/events venue for both city sponsored and private activities.

The armory was constructed in 1975.

E-mail: mmeaux@panews.com

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