Last month, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks in Gateway closed the sale of their 30,000 sq. ft. lodge building and the five surrounding acres to the David Douglas School District for $3.8 million.
District Communications Specialist Dan McCue said the district is not sure what it will do with the property once they take possession. “Land is scarce in the district, and we’re growing; all of our schools are full, so we know we’ll need property in the future,” he said. “The logical conclusion is it might be some kind of alternative school, or some other student oriented programming, but we don’t know what that would be yet.”
In addition to the Elks lodge, the school district acquired a former restaurant and adjacent office building on Northeast 113th Avenue and Halsey Street last year, which they will use for their printing plant and district administration office.
When the lodge opened in 1972 with 3,200 members, it was the largest new lodge enrollment in Elks’ history, according to current Exalted Ruler Tom Frazey.
In its halcyon years, membership peaked at 5,000. Since then, the fraternal order, like others, has been leaking members.
Revenue to operate the building comes from events held at the lodge that raises money for its charitable work and membership dues. “Our volunteers put a lot of hours in for our charities,” said Denice Schuermyer, who began her 19th year as an Elk in January.
They also have a full service restaurant and bar open daily that includes video poker. With about 1000 members today, dues are not enough to sustain the building and fund the lodge’s operating costs. “We’re an active lodge even though membership is down,” Frazey said. “We still have a lot of different committees that do different functions.”
Constructed in 1972, the building is not only at the northern edge of the school district at 711 N.E. 100th Ave., but also in the heart of the Gateway Regional Center Urban Renewal Area.
Frazey, whose father and grandfather were both Elks said feelings are mixed about the sale. “Some are glad we’re getting rid of it because of the cost of it,” he said. “Some are sad because they joined in this building.”
The school district gave the Elks a year to find a new home. In the meantime, they pay rent on the building they once owned. Frazey said they are looking for another, smaller building. “We’re looking within a three-four mile radius of here,” he said. “We’re considering a couple of places; one’s east, one is south of here.”
“We’re hoping with the new building, once it’s set-up, and we’re ready to go, we can have an open house to invite the community,” said Schuermyer, “We want to show them that actively participating in your charity fundraising is definitely rewarding.”
Frazey added, “This is just a building, the members are the lodge.”