Shreveport Times – January 21, 2017

 

Paul Hickman: YMCA campus kicks 2017 off right

Santa left one last present for our community under the tree. And it is a doozy. In the first quarter of this new year the BHP Billiton YMCA Red River Fitness & Natural Sciences Campus will open its first phase, a 58,000-plus square foot fitness and aquatic center, to great fanfare.

Located just off the Clyde Fant Parkway, the facility will be home to a state of the art fitness and exercise center, as well as youth and adult sports leagues such as basketball and indoor volleyball. An indoor family pool and a 50-meter competition pool will promote year-around life-saving swim programs and serve as a home for area swimmers to host and compete in local, state and regional events. The Y will continue to offer quality services and will be able to expand its offerings to include programs such as “Y Readers,” a summer reading program that will fight illiteracy in our community. There is even a nursery for child care.

Also on the drawing board for future development are a Tournament Style Youth Baseball Complex that involves the purchase and upgrading of the existing Shreveport Little League Fields and a Nature Education and Research Center that includes 100 acres of lake, marsh and wetlands. The nature center will showcase the natural wonders of our region and will provide walking trails connected to the Red River trail system for all ages to enjoy. When all is said and done, the BHP Billiton YMCA Red River Fitness & Natural Sciences Campus will encompass 150 acres. In a region where we see daily the deleterious effects of inactive lifestyles, this multifaceted, all-ages recreation facility is a much needed gift.

None of this wonderful community amenity would have been accomplished without philanthropy. BHP Billiton, a global resources company with petroleum operations in northwest Louisiana, gave a seed donation of $10.7 million toward this new facility. $2.7 million of the BHP donation is the value of land contributed for the Nature Education and Research Center, and $8 million was given toward the construction of the BHP Billiton YMCA Red River Fitness Center.

“We are proud to partner with the YMCA, through a $10.7 million investment, to help bring the BHP Billiton YMCA Red River Fitness & Natural Sciences Campus to northwest Louisiana,” said Steve Pastor, president petroleum for BHP Billiton. “Our company aims to have a positive impact on the communities where we live and work, and we hope the BHP Billiton YMCA becomes a great place where the community can grow healthier and stronger.”

An additional $6 million for the project was contributed by the local community and Y investments, leaving $3.5 million still to be raised. The Y staff and a committed board of volunteers have developed a plan to continue fundraising efforts and no doubt they will be successful as our community embraces this wonderful gift.

For over 125 years, the YMCA has served this area faithfully, encouraging youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Its dedicated staff, volunteers, donors, partners and allies, are steadfast in its mission to build healthy, confident, connected and secure children, adults, families throughout our community. Kudos to all who have had the vision for and donated resources to create this special place for our entire region. Thanks to them, 2017 is starting off with a bang!

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