PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

March 7, 2013

Port Neches, YMCA talks continue

Mary Meaux
Port Arthur News

PORT NECHES — Discussion between the YMCA of Southeast Texas and the City of Port Neches regarding the potential use of the old armory building will continue.

The two entities have been in talks regarding the possibility of bringing the Y to the city. One possible location is the former armory building, 511 Grigsby Ave.

On Thursday, city leaders authorized the continuation of the talks.

Pete Hicks, president/CEO of YMCA of Southeast Texas, was on hand for the meeting and said the Y is very excited about the possibility of bringing a branch to the city.

“We have been running programs in Port Neches for 25 to 30 years already and are at a lot of schools,” Hicks said.

But in order to make the first step the Y had to make sure there was interest in the venture. A total of 5,200 households received a survey regarding the Y and its programs and 10 percent of those surveyed responded. Of those, 78 percent were favorable toward the Y, he said.

“We are very excited to continue the talks,” he added.

A Community Center Advisory Board, which consists of 11 Port Neches residents, was tagged to help research possible uses for the 14,300 square foot former Texas National Guard Armory building in 2012. The group shared their idea with city leaders and met with representatives of the YMCA before presenting their idea to city council in November.

Place 5 Councilmember Julie Gauthier, chairperson of a committee, said the group met several times and were all in agreement regarding the Y or a recreation center being placed at the armory.

Gauthier reviewed the surveys and noted a majority of responses were in favor of youth programs, after-school programs and summertime programs for youth. But, she said, she does not want a facility that would be in direct competition with Powerhouse Gym, located in Port Neches. She feels the facility, if approved, would be a great place for youth.

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.

Last year 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

Twitter: MaryMeauxPANews