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Glenn Ray and G&R Excavating to submit plans to the borough to bring historic YMCA back to life

Last week, Glenn Ray, owner of G&R Excavating and Demolition in Tyrone, had his structural engineer, Joe Winslow of Stifler & McGraw Engineering in Hollidaysburg, do a site inspection of the former YMCA building that has been standing since 1913. The YMCA closed its doors December 30, 2004.
Ray bought the building and was officially handed the keys at the end of August, 2007. In January of 2008, he placed advertisements and had news articles written to seek the community’s input on what the fate of the YMCA should be.
The former YMCA was once home to a pre-school program, numerous sports activities, Tyrone Community Players, dance, and many other activities.
As of yesterday, Ray was jubilant and eager to begin the process of restoring the historic building and provide once again, a place for the youth of the community to establish. In fact, that was the idea all along. It was just a matter of putting together a solid plan of action, which he believes he has done.
Although the building is not in its prime, it’s also not ready to fall down. With Ray being a “demo guy,” with current jobs going on in State College, such as the demolition of the former Lowe’s building by the Toftrees Exit, along with other projects in the area, he has already begun to compile some much needed additions to the YMCA building through that recycling of material.
“I’m financially in good shape on it, so I’m not going to borrow any money,” stated Ray. “Right now, we took the insulation and the rubber roof off the Lowe’s building (which was only seven years old) and we’re delivering it inside the YMCA downstairs.”
Ray estimated that to buy a rubber roof and insulation would cost around $40,000, so he thinks that is a “big step” in the renovation process. He said much of the things he will need to upgrade the YMCA could come from the former Lowe’s building. He plans on taking off one of the rooftop units there to provide central air conditioning at the YMCA.
“I have a $20,000 unit over there with my name on it,” said Ray. He also has accumulated some newer boilers from other job sites in State College, adding, “I’m trashing all the old boilers and putting new smaller ones in, and taking the old boiler room out and making that personnel parking.”
“The old boilers were dinosaurs,” said Ray. “The stacks are big and most of the gas was going up the stacks.”
Ray also has some support and guidance from Richard F. Fiore, Sr., President of Leonard S. Fiore Inc. of Altoona, who is experienced in the work Ray is taking on. In fact, Ray said he is meeting with a couple of Fiore’s bosses this week to go over some plans to possibly take out the YMCA gym floor with a skid steer, and actually raise the gym floor to ground level to help prevent flooding disasters.
“There’s two headers in there that we need to move, so I have some people checking to see how high we need it in there,” stated Ray. “I don’t want to lose the basketball there, because we can have it if we get the YMCA running again.”
Ray also said there is one main doorway back into the former dance hall that may be a structural change with a header, where he would have to cut the wall and put a new header in. He thinks he could bring the gym floor up three feet.
“The whole issue about the flooding, G&R’s going to eliminate that problem,” added Ray. “We’ll drain that new floor right into a corner and put a huge sump in with a drain over it, so when we get a flood it should take care of it.”
As for new windows for the YMCA building, Ray thinks he might have that issue solved also. Thanks to his demo work going on at Lowe’s in State College, he said that Your Building Center (YBC) has approached him about possibly acquiring some of the items from Lowe’s. In exchange for those items, Ray hopes to work out a deal to get windows for the YMCA.
“I have some better plans now, and this structural engineer that’s working with us is working every day,” said Ray. “We’re making sure no interior main structure rust or damage is there. We’re doing a really extensive study of the structure of the building, to make sure we don’t start dumping money into something for nothing.”
He added, “I’m going to fix it, I feel. We found nothing that I didn’t know about, and I don’t feel we’re going to find anymore. If we do find something, we’ll correct it. We want to fix what’s there.”
Ray wants to restore the YMCA and make it what it used to be, but better. Since he privately owns it, he will give it a corporation name yet to be determined. But, Ray doesn’t think he can do it alone.
“We’re looking for good, competent people to step up to the plate,” added Ray. “We’re not looking for their money, we’re asking for their guidance and input through it. I don’t think I can afford going into all this without a group of people helping. I can’t give my life to that Y, I want to, but my business requires me also.”
One of Ray’s ideas is to look for an outside group to be stationed in the building, along with the regular activities that go on at a YMCA type facility. He mentioned possibly a Greyhound Bus Station or ultimately an American Red Cross location, which he feels the community would benefit greatly.
“I would really like the Red Cross in that building,” said Ray. “I could help so much more with the Red Cross there. I’d be able to donate stuff from my warehouse to catastrophe sites from tornadoes and floods by shipping lumber or whatever I have.”
He added, “I want to do that, and the Red Cross provides that opportunity.” Ray said he has been greatly influenced by Tyrone’s Salvation Army volunteer Bob Maser, who is constantly worried about kids not having clothes and food in the community, and considers Bob “a good man.”
“I always did things, but I never knew that it was that important,” said Ray.
But, first things first. Ray plans on receiving his structural engineer’s report early next week, and plans on making the report public knowledge to Tyrone Borough shortly thereafter. Once the borough receives the report, a meeting will be set up for review and Ray’s plan of action for the YMCA building. Borough Code Enforcement Officer Jim Metzgar will conduct his own on-site inspection, before work can begin.
“The first thing we’re going to do is cap a roof with two and a half inches of insulation on it and fix up the front of the building and the masonry work, so we can open the sidewalk,” said Ray. “I want to get it up and running and give it back as our youth center.”