Shreveport Times: New YMCA could be a ‘game changer’ for Shreveport

, sdickerson@gannett.com 5:14 p.m. CST December 2, 2016

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Only a couple months away from opening its doors, the YMCA off of East Preston Avenue is shaping up to be a game changer for Shreveport.

The $17.5-million fitness center project will feature a state-of-the-art Olympic swimming pool, basketball courts, exercise and weight rooms. The entire complex, sitting on roughly 150 acres of land along Clyde Fant Parkway, will include renovated baseball fields and a nature station with trails and a lake.

“This has been incredible,” said YMCA of Northwest Louisiana CEO Gary Lash. “I’ve been blessed to be a part of this project. It’s something beyond my wildest dreams.”

Lash said the campus could become an engine for tourism, encouraging youth sports teams to come to Shreveport for swim meets, baseball tournaments and more. He estimated the new pool and baseball fields could each provide an annual economic impact of about $5 million to $6 million.

“This will be a huge draw,” he said. “This is a huge opportunity for the community.”

The pool features an “evacuator” system that removes the air from the surface of the water and pipes it out of the building. The system removes chloramines, the ammonia-like chemical created when chlorine-treated water comes in contact with nitrogen. Chloramines sit on the surface of the water, and can cause red eyes, coughing and congestion that often come with swimming in public pools.

“You won’t even be able to smell the chlorine,” YMCA marketing and communications director Michelle Roberts said.

The YMCA’s eight-lane pool will be one of only a few in the country to employ the system, Lash said. The pool will also be the only public Olympic-size swimming pool in the region. Lash said the closest pool this size is two hours away in Terrell, Texas.

The pool will feature movable bulkheads that can be used to partition off parts of the water for swim safety classes and free-form swimming to take place simultaneously. A family pool will be adjacent to the larger pool.

The project started in 2007 when, Lash said, he and others began to consider renovating the YMCA’s facility in Broadmoor, but instead started looking into building new. BHP Billiton, whose name will be affixed to the building, donated roughly $10.7 million — $8 million in cash and $2.7 million in land — to the YMCA.

The YMCA is currently courting donors to make a $3.5-million gap to complete the project. Donors can have their names on exercise rooms, the family pool or even on bricks leading up to the entrance. Engraved bricks can be purchased for $100.

The fitness center has a tentative opening date of Jan. 21.

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