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YMCA, Boys & Girls Club eye fall 2019 opening for $27.5 million Wisconsin Rapids center | Southwood YMCA Construct Hub

YMCA, Boys & Girls Club eye fall 2019 opening for $27.5 million Wisconsin Rapids center

The new YMCA and Boys & Girls Club could open at the site of the Rapids Mall as early as fall 2019.

Leaders from the John E. Alexander South Wood County YMCA and Boys & Girls Club of the Wisconsin Rapids Area met with members of the media Monday morning to share new details of their plan to build a $27.5 million facility on the city’s west side.

The 89,000-square-foot center would be a combination of new and renovated space. A majority of the Wisconsin Rapids mall, which will cease operation on Jan. 31, will be demolished.

A groundbreaking for the new facility is slated for May, with mall demolition starting then as well. The construction timeline is 14 to 16 months, said Bret Salscheider, executive director of the YMCA.

“The YMCA has been exploring a new location for four or five years, and the Boys & Girls Club is desperately in need of a new facility. The timing of this is absolutely perfect,” said Phil Brown, co-chairman of the capital campaign for the new facility. “As one of the founding members of the Boys & Girls Club, it’s exciting to see these two organizations teaming up.

“The location couldn’t be better. To repurpose the Wisconsin Rapids mall area into a state-of-the-art facility is such a boost to the west side and the residents of the west side.”

Monday’s meeting also served as a kickoff for the Building Futures Together Capital Campaign, which aims to raise the final $6 million needed for the project. The Legacy Foundation has already made a contribution and matching funds from the New Markets Tax Credit Program will fill the gap.

The city is working with the YMCA and Boys & Girls Club on infrastructure and to help unlock state and federal grants, but no taxpayer money is involved in the project, Salscheider said.

The YMCA and Boys & Girls Club have been very careful to maintain their individual identities in this partnership, Salscheider said.

“The Boys & Girls Club will be leading all before- and after-school programming along with teen enrichment and mentoring, and the Y will lead all youth-related health and recreation-based programming,” Salscheider said. “We will be able to use each other’s spaces and avoid duplication of services.”

The two organizations will have separate memberships, but youth who have a membership to the YMCA will have a membership to the Boys & Girls Club, said Kent Anderson, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club.

Salscheider said eight full-time positions also will be added with the move to the new facility — six at the YMCA and two at the Boys & Girls Club, as well as many part-time positions.

“It will be a hub of activity — VA Clinic, senior center, Wisconsin Rapids Community Theatre, YMCA and Boys & Girls Club — all under one roof,” Salscheider said. “It’s also close to walking and biking trails, the riverfront, the Tribune Building, the health department.”

The farmers market will remain near its current site, and Salscheider said the YMCA and Boys & Girls Club are working on short- and long-term plans for its future.

The YMCA’s current buildings in Port Edwards will be used as a program satellite, Salscheider said. The Port Edwards 4K program will remain, and the gymnastics team and facility will stay in Port Edwards. The 24-hour wellness center also will stay open.

The YMCA will most likely look to sell its current Wisconsin Rapids facility on Pepper Avenue, he said.

The YMCA and Boys & Girls Club announced in August they would partner to purchase the Rapids Mall to build the new center. Mall tenants were told about the proposal at a meeting Aug. 28 and learned once the sale was final, they would need to vacate the mall. The organizations finalized the sale with mall owner Global Equity Investments on Thursday, Salscheider said.

Since the August announcement, several mall businesses have announced their intention to close or relocate. Bethesda Thrift Shop announced it will close Dec. 30, and Silvio’s pizza shop will close its doors on Dec. 31. 
Rapid Rehab relocated to 2660 Eighth St. S. in October. The Aquarium Pet Shop opened in its new space in the TLC Travel building, 3111 Eighth St. S., on Friday.

“What I love about the location (of the new facility) is that it is in the heart of the community and it’s centrally located,” Salscheider said. “The city’s west side is a severely distressed area, and we are putting this facility where its services are needed the most.”

What the new facility will include:

  • Boys & Girls Club amenities will include a teen center, game area, learning center and study lounge, gathering and social areas, and arts and humanity areas.
  • YMCA amenities will include an aquatics center with two pools (one six-lane lap pool and one family adventure pool with whirlpool), health and wellness center, group exercise studios, teaching and demonstration kitchen, indoor walking and running track, child watch and family adventure center, full-day child care for 80 children, gymnasium and locker rooms.

This article originally published in the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune, Dec 4th, 2017