I Wanna Know: YMCA facility in Lake Charles - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

I Wanna Know: YMCA facility in Lake Charles

(Source: Theresa Schmidt/KPLC) (Source: Theresa Schmidt/KPLC)
For decades, the YMCA facility on Kirby St. was a thriving center in downtown Lake Charles. Since Hurricane Rita, the building has been sitting idly.

Lake Charles resident John Chavanne is one of many who wait with anticipation for word that something worthwhile will be done with the place.

"I've been in the neighborhood for over fifty years," said Chavanne. "We took swimming lessons here. It was a place to come work out on your lunch hour. It was activity in the back -- people running around the track, exercising, and it's just been in disrepair forever."

However, there is something in the works. Brian Vallier is on the board seeking a group to return the facility to its former place in the community.

"We can continue it by finding an organization who can afford to take on the massive responsibility of this 30-plus thousand square-foot building with more than two and a half acres, and so, that's what we're searching for... (an) organization that can afford to repair it but also afford to maintain it and give the community basically something that will enrich the community," said Vallier.

Vallier says that the board gave up the YMCA charter years ago, to keep with the spirit of what the original founders intended.

"There's a bronze placard there at the building that has these old, Lake Charles family names on it," said Vallier. "When they put their money and their thought and their time into building it, they had a mission. They had a purpose for improving the community, and we wanted to continue that."

After recently advertising for proposals, Vallier says the board has received six by their deadline.

Among the applicants is Friend Ships. Spokesman Sondra Tipton says their group would use the facility for fitness, recreation, education and Bible study.

"What we'd like to do and we're very excited about the possibility of doing is combining the fitness programs for the community, utilizing local churches to come and teach Bible studies in the evening," said Tipton.

She says young Sea Hawks, for whom fitness is key, would help with programs to benefit the community, especially children.

"We'd utilize the pool and have team sports and also individual machine workouts," said Tipton. "We would have people teaching martial arts and a couple of things like anti-bullying programs and also educational programs, after school type things."

Vallier says the board members will take their time to make the best choice and that other proposals are being kept confidential. The property is not being offered for commercial use.

The board plans to donate the building but reserves the right to take it back if the operators fail to do as promised.

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