Brian Roe of the American Legion Post 173 in Hays hears it more often than he would like.
“I think everyone thought the post went away. A lot of people have told me ‘You guys aren’t anymore,’” says Roe, Post 173 commander. “But the American Legion did not go away when we sold the old building. The American Legion is still here. It’s still strong. You just make sure you let everyone know, we’re alive and we’re ticking.”
If things go as planned, Post 173 in 2019 will have a new building for its members on a parcel of ground north of Interstate 70. The land is on the east side of U.S. Highway 183, behind the former Hays Livestock Market Center, and is owned by Ellis County farmer Lester Gross.
“Lester Gross made us a very good deal on the property,” Roe said. “We would like to put up a new building.”
The local post, which was formed after World War II, has about 400 members, Roe said. It previously operated from 1305 Canterbury Dr., a large building it sold in 2017.
“It was way, way, way too big,” Roe said, “and it became way more expensive to operate than it could bring in.”
Contrary to popular belief, the post’s American Legion Auxiliary is still active, as are the Sons of the American Legion and the American Legion Riders, Roe said. For the past year meetings have been held in the National Guard Armory, 708 Main St., while the post has been restructuring its finances.
“We stopped long enough to straighten all the bills out and get everything right with everyone in the community,” Roe said. “We no longer owe anyone.”
Gross has applied with the city of Hays to annex the property, which is a .68 acre tract that was part of the former Hays Livestock Market Center, said Jesse Rohr, director of public works for the city.
The Hays City Commission will receive the application at their regularly scheduled work session this evening in city hall, 1507 Main St. The session starts at 6:30 p.m.
As with the other developed properties north of I-70, the Gross land is already zoned C2, commercial general district, which is a catch-all for everything from hotels, motels, restaurants, retail, and service businesses such as banks, salons, gas stations, car lots and attorneys, Rohr said.
The land is contiguous to the city, with city streets and city water and sewer utilities. “It’s zoned and it’s platted, so this is just the next step,” Rohr said.
The contract on the parcel has been signed for about a month, Gross said, and is just awaiting city approval at this point.
As to when Post 173 might open a new building, Roe said it’ll be “when the membership decides we’re going to open it.”
The size of the building hasn’t been decided, but the members want to hire local contractors and suppliers to build it.
Having a location for area veterans is important, said Roe, who served in Vietnam from 1974 to 1977.
“It is a place for us to share what we have to give to the community,” he said, saying a new building might be a place to have coffee with friends, hold wedding receptions, host graduation parties, or allow meetings.
“We’re ready to open a new home,” he said.