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Revamped YMCA is primed for next spring, says executive director

December 24, 2018

Coming early in 2019 will be an improved Lake Houston Family YMCA.

Hurricane Harvey ravaged the building by funneling water to rooms and from there halting all of the place’s operations, said Chris Butsch, the facility’s executive director.

Although he transferred from the D. Bradley McWilliams YMCA after the havoc Butsch said he still saw traces of destruction.

“It was pretty bad, about 7-and-a-half to 9-feet depending on what part of the building you’re in,” Butsch said. “The pool was bad. It was gross — there were animals in it, fish and all kinds of stuff.”

At last Thursday’s Summer Creek BizCom gathering, Talybra Hollins, the center’s member service director, said that there will be a grand-opening event “around March,” elevating everything into fully operational mode after a partial opening in last June.

Butsch, however, said the finish line is now more likely to be April.

“A lot of that depends on permits,” he added.

One of the major hands involved in the $15-million rebuilding is D.E. Harvey Builders, whose president, Joe Cleary, donated $250,000 into the project. Builders could be seen besieging the center, some paving hallways toward the new lobby and some working on the frame of a second-floor wellness area.

Butsch said the latter is set to be the new home of the weights and gym equipment — all new — that are currently in a hoopless and-hardwood-free basketball court.

Despite all the ruination, Butsch also saw a chance to add new facilities, all of which were based on feedback from members. In November 2017, the center introduced two AireFitness, or outdoor fitness, pods. Coming soon, too, are turf-based classes, Spin Cycle studio, a new dance studio, a new yoga studio and youth-oriented features.

“The biggest thing we heard was ‘new fitness options,’” he said.

Speaking of members, Butsch credited them for being supportive throughout the process, particularly the period when staff members were thin — it was just him and one more person; others were shifted to different centers — and running a fundraiser without a building.

“They’ve been great, honestly,” he said. “We’ve gotten back roughly 70 to 80-percent of our membership base pre-Harvey.”

Hollins said it was great to see, since then, an influx of both familiar faces and new members. It was a reality that unraveled her initial doubts of how the construction, plus the prospect of delays and unmet expectations, could affect the center’s chemistry with the public. But she noted that the main reaction has been excitement — for the new programming and the new look.

Butsch said he is eager to see the latter.

“The glass walls, the Y logo — it’s going to be one of the more premiere buildings in this area when all is said and done,” he said. “I think everybody’s kind of tired of talking about Harvey, everybody’s ready to turn back to normalcy, and I know the Y is a big part of that.”

The YMCA of Greater Houston was first formed in 1886 and has since expanded to many regions in the city. For more information on the nonprofit and ways to assist it, visit ymcahouston.org.

nguyen.le@chron.com

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