old ymca building

The former YMCA building in downtown Lake Charles.

Just more than a dozen agencies have expressed interest in renting space inside the former YMCA building in downtown Lake Charles once it is renovated, the head of the Boy Scouts of America Calcasieu Area Council said Monday.

Mike Beer, scout executive/CEO for the Calcasieu council, told Downtown Development Authority members that the building's interior is still being cleared. It was vacated after Hurricane Rita's 2005 landfall and fell victim to neglect and further damage over several years. The Kirby Street Center for Community Enrichment Board donated the building to the Boy Scouts Calcasieu council in February 2017.

"I think we've had six or seven clean outs over the past 12 months," Beer said. "We're trying to get as much to the bare bones as possible."

Beer said "at least 15 or 16 different" experts have toured the building, including contractors and asbestos testers. He said a small amount of asbestos found in the boiler room is airborne.

"It wouldn't even fill up a garbage bag," Beer said. "The asbestos report is not as bad as many people thought it was."

Beer said the original part of the building is structurally sound, but the building that houses the pool is the most concerning.

"It's a complete gut job," he said. "You see the steel poking through and rusted."

A capital campaign ranging from $8-$10 million is anticipated to renovate the building, Beer said. He said a $1.5 million endowment will generate roughly $60,000 in annual interest to operate and maintain the pool. Beer added that the pool will likely be modified to have a 5-foot depth throughout, allowing for more usage.

Beer said the facility's overall concept is a cross between the SEED Center and the Central School Arts and Humanities Center.

"It's what can we do to house and support other nonprofits that are like-minded," he said. "It's going to be a mixed-use facility."

One idea includes modifying the indoor racquetball courts to give the Lake Charles Archery Club an indoor archery range, Beer said.

Ninety-five percent of the gymnasium floor is in good shape, with the space possibly being used as an event center or a rental area for an upstart church, Beer said.

He said roughly five or six Boy Scout councils nationwide have facilities similar to the old YMCA building. Earlier this year, he said he visited the facility in Denver, Colo., and learned about their business model.

To inquire about partnerships or volunteer in clean up efforts, call Beer at 436-3376.

Online: calcasieubsa.org

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