Billings Gymnasium to be site of Weiser Boys and Girls Club

The Boys and Girls Club of Western Treasure Valley have purchased the Billings Memorial Gymnasium, which will serve as the future home of the Weiser Boys and Girls Club. Pictured from left, Shelby Leslie, Serene Hoober, Madison Kendall, and Dana Catellani. Photo by Philip A. Janquart
Philip A. Janquart
It was once a thriving hub of activity for area youth.
 Over the years, it served a number of different purposes, including as an auto repair shop. Last January, however, the Billings Memorial Gymnasium, which is part of the former Intermountain Institute, will revert back to its original purpose – serving kids.
 The Boys and Girls Club of Western Treasure Valley made it official a couple months ago, according to CEO Dana Castellani who said the organization took out a loan to purchase the building from long-time owners Andrew Hatlestad and Jane Whitaker.
 “Andrew and Jane knew that this was meant for kids and wanted it to go back to kids,” Castellani told the Signal American on Friday, as she gave members of the Weiser Community Church a tour of the building.
 The church donated $1,500 to the Weiser Boys and Girls Club earlier in the day, the funds are part of the revenue brought in by the annual Groundhog Day Dinner held Feb. 2.
 “It is the former owners’ desire to let a local youth-serving organization come in and breathe fresh life into the dormant building,” Castellani said.
 The process began last July when the owners approached her about purchasing the building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. From there, she consulted with her Boys and Girls Club Board members, in addition to a CPA, attorney, retired judge, and former banker.
 The building’s purchase price has not been released.
 Now that the papers have been signed, however, there is still lots of work ahead. The building has sat vacant for several years and had become a nesting site for birds, which left the attic in less than poor condition.
 “My asbestos team brought down the ceilings and cleaned feathers and poop, which was everywhere,” Castellani said. “They were in full hazmat, and sprayed bleach solutions, so it was a pretty heavy-duty cleaning.”
 Pro Roofing, out of Fruitland, took care of the roof and sealed it to prevent birds and other animals from returning.  
 The next step is to have engineers examine the building and provide a report on its structural condition.
 Castellani said she does not have a set date when the building will be finished.
 “That’s going to depend on more capital funding, which I have not written yet because I don’t know exactly what I need,” she said. “We will need to get that engineer report first. Our vision is a modern, clean, structurally sound building.”
 Castellani added, however, that the Weiser Boys and Girls Club would like to begin serving area youth by the start of the 2023-24 school year next fall.
 She is currently in search of space.
 “There are Clubs all over the country; some are free-standing Clubhouses, others are housed in schools,” she said. “My first Club partnered with a church; we were in a church basement for years, so the next step is to see where there might be space that we could share. I don’t have anything solid yet.”
Billings Memorial Gymnasium
 Founded in 1899, the Intermountain Institute, which comprises several buildings on a 15-acre campus near Weiser High School, served rural high school students. 
 The main administration building, known as “Hooker Hall,” was built in 1924. It is now home to the Snake River Heritage Center museum. Its displays feature agriculture, local hero, mining, automotive, irrigation, and telephone/communications history.
 Billings Memorial Gymnasium was designed by Tourtellotte and Hummel and opened in 1929, housing a large basketball court and swimming pool.
 It was dedicated to long-time Institute benefactress Elizabeth Billings.
 For more information or to make a donation to the cause, contact Dana Castellani at (406) 208-0248.


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