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YMCA in Shreveport breaks ground on three-phase fitness campus

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Kate Archer Kent
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YMCA of Northwest Louisiana officials broke ground Wednesday on the first phase of what will be a $20 million fitness and natural sciences campus.

One amenity: a 50-meter competitive swimming pool. This got a big cheer from kids in the crowd at a groundbreaking ceremony, clad in swim team T-shirts, including nine-year-old Jenna Key.

“My dad said this pool will be much bigger, so we’ll have lots more space to swim,” Key said, who is on the Christus Schumpert swim team.

BHP Billiton provided seed money with a $10.7 million donation one year ago. The Y’s Red River Fitness facility is going up next to BHP Billiton’s Haynesville Shale operations center, currently housing 100 employees.

The head of the company’s petroleum operations Tim Cutt of Houston says, by far, this is the multinational firm’s largest philanthropic endeavor underway. He says BHP Billiton is setting down roots in Shreveport and being a good corporate citizen because it’s prepared to develop the Haynesville Shale’s rich natural gas resource for decades.

“Although we’re a global company, the Haynesville Shale gas field is one of the most important assets we have in the entire company,” Cutt said, following the groundbreaking ceremony. “The fact that we can do something right across the street from our office that touches the youth of the local community is an opportunity we just can’t pass up.”

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Credit Kate Archer Kent
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YMCA and BHP Billiton executives stand shoulder to shoulder turning dirt on a new fitness campus that is expected to open in fall 2016.

YMCA board chairman Greg Morrison says the impetus for this new Y came five years ago. A fellow board member created a master plan as part of a Centenary College class.

“We started white boarding this project. In that amount of time, BHP Billiton had bought Petrohawk Energy Corp. We found out that BHP was very involved with YMCA programs globally. It was just a perfect storm,” Morrison said, who recalls pitching the new fitness facility over a breakfast with a BHP Billiton executive.

The first phase is expected to open in fall 2016. The future phases will include an overhaul of Shreveport’s Little League Complex and the creation of a 110-acre outdoor natural science center.

Other amenities include a family-therapeutic pool, group exercise areas, education and youth program areas and health and wellness screenings.

Morrison says the campus eventually will offer swimming, Little League baseball, T-ball and soccer that will attract teams from Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas to the campus.

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Credit Kate Archer Kent
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The YMCA of Northwest Louisiana's 42-acre master plan was on display Wednesday on the rain-soaked property on the west side of Clyde Fant Parkway.

Shreveport’s YMCA was founded in the 1860s.

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