Home News Local News City looks for possible buyer for Yucca Center

City looks for possible buyer for Yucca Center

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Lisa Dunlap Photo Once the site for city-organized youth sports and recreational activities in Roswell, the Yucca Recreation Center on South Richardson Avenue is in search of a new owner. Built in 1911, the center has needed repairs for years and was closed due to safety concerns after a heavy snowstorm in December 2015.

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Can a city building that once was a hub for youth activities be saved?

That’s the question now that the city of Roswell is seeking bids for the Yucca Recreation Center, prompted after discussions by the city about possibly tearing the “deteriorating” building down.

The 2.95-acre property at 500 S. Richardson Ave. was once the site of city-organized sports events and recreational activities for youth, but city officials decided in 2015 not to repair the 38,200-square-foot, three-story structure built in 1911. Shortly after making the decision, a severe winter storm and the resulting roof damage caused the building closure for safety reasons.

Now the city is seeking bids to find out if some person or company might be interested in saving it from a possible wrecking ball. Bids are requested by Jan. 9, with a final sale contract expected by May 2018 if a successful bidder comes forward.

“What prompted this was, a conversation happened at Infrastructure (a Roswell City Council Infrastructure Committee meeting) and said, you know, before we tear it down let’s see if there is a value of the building to anybody else,” said City Manager Joe Neeb. “If we are going to just remove the property and take the building down, let’s see if there is someone who wants to put the money into rehabbing it.”

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Roswell City Council committees debated the center’s future in 2015 after many years of little maintenance occurring on the structure, which had roof leaks for several years. Staff told elected officials that it would cost $9 million to fix the roof and other structural problems and bring the building in compliance with required codes. Originally, staff estimated that a replacement building could be constructed for $6 million.

In November 2015 the Roswell City Council voted for city staff to proceed with designs and planning for a new recreation center, which now was estimated to cost $9 million.

Then came Winter Storm Goliath. The severe snowstorm in December 2015 caused such extensive damage to the roof that the city closed the building quickly after that due to safety concerns, according to Laurie Jerge, recreation superintendent for the city. She said youth activities have been relocated for the time being to the Roswell Recreation and Adult Center on North Missouri Avenue.

After more than a year of public discussions, the path forward to a new recreation center was forged. In February 2017, the City Council voted to issue about $20 million in bonds for the construction of a new recreation center, along with a new aquatic center, near the Cielo Grande Recreation Area on West College Boulevard. The bonds will be repaid by rate increases to three local gross receipts taxes.

That construction project is underway now and expected to be completed by fall 2018.

The one-story recreation center is estimated to be about $9 million of the project cost and initially has been designed to include a multipurpose room, a fitness center and two basketball courts that can be divided into smaller gym areas.

According to the issued Request for Proposals concerning the Yucca Center, the building, which has been abated for asbestos, “continues to deteriorate” since a September 2014 report noting its structural deficiencies.

Neeb said a buyer would have to indicate how the building would be rehabilitated.

Local Realtor Larry Fresquez of Century 21 said he personally would like to see the building sold at any price than seen it torn down.

“I would rather see them sell it than let it sit there and be degraded any further,” he said. “It is one of the few historical buildings we have in town. … It needs to be exposed to the market for a fair amount of time rather than just demolished.”

The property’s assets include a location close to downtown, an established playground area and a paved parking lot.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.