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YMCA eyes spot near Medford elementary school campus

YMCA, school district to begin talks about a land lease for a planned facility which will serve area

A group working to bring a YMCA to Medford is eyeing a portion of school-owned land near Medford Area Elementary School as its top possible location.

Representatives from the group came to Monday’s school board meeting to start a discussion about how the school and the YMCA could work together.

According to John Nystrom, chief executive officer of the Marshfield Area YMCA, about a year ago, he was invited to come to Medford and see if the community would be a good fit to have a YMCA. He said they determined there could be enough support for one as a satellite under the Marshfield YMCA charter.

He said the plan would be for the 24-hour facility to be about 25,000 square feet and accommodate for health and wellness needs catering primarily to people of a retirement age who can utilize insurance benefits to cover membership. In addition, he said there would be youth development opportunities for children with after school programs as well as a daycare for 45 children from birth to age five.

As part of the group’s plans, in addition to building a structure in the northeast corner of the property close to the elementary school, they would also construct an access road that would connect the elementary parking lot to CTH Q.

According to Nystrom, the planned building would include gym space and classroom areas which could be used by the district for 4K classrooms. He said that the facility would not include a pool but that they would look to work with the school to do some programming at the nearby high school pool.

Nystrom estimated the membership fee would be similar to the YMCA they opened in Neillsville which has a fee of $55 per month.

Nystrom explained that they are currently in the “quiet” phase of fundraising for the project where they are talking with potential major donors. He said they would like to launch a public fundraising campaign early next spring with the goal of having groundbreaking for the 2024 construction season.

Board member John Zuleger asked why they were interested in the spot by the elementary school.

“There is an opportunity for partnership,” Nystrom said, noting the potential for supplemental programing for the schools, and that with childcare available it would be beneficial for school staff. He said with the high school and elementary school there, it would be beneficial for families.

“We believe the best preference is this because it allows for more partnerships,” Nystrom said, noting that while it is the group’s favored location it is not the only potential location.

Board president Dave Fleegel asked how they would see land ownership if the group was asking for the district to donate the land or had other ideas.

Nystrom said his recommendation, as with the other projects he has been involved with, is for the district to retain ownership of the land and lease it to the YMCA for an extended period of time at a nominal amount. He said this would protect the school district’s interests if the YMCA ever decided to close the facility in the future.

“As long as we can raise the funds to build the building we can succeed,” Nystrom said.

“I support the concept,” said board member Brian Hallgren. “I think it is a great idea.”

Hallgren said the board should have Pat and the administrative team work with Nystrom and the local committee to see what could be done.

Board member Jodi Neubauer asked if the board had any other plans for that spot.

Sullivan said that there has been discussion in the past about other things including most recently soccer fields, but that he felt there would still be a lot of space there for those uses.

Board member Kurt Werner expressed concern about giving up land adjacent to the school. “Looking to the future, God isn’t making any more land,” he said noting the district may have a need for it in the future.

Sullivan noted the road access proposed would be a major boost to the district since they had looked to get that built as part of the failed referendum. He said with it within walking distance of the elementary school it would be easy to share classroom space for 4K and the potential for additional gym space at the facility. He said he felt it would be a benefit to the school district.

The estimated footprint of the proposed building would be about three acres. The district has about 24 acres in that parcel.

In the end, board members approved having Sullivan continue talking with the YMCA representatives. Any potential agreements would come back to the full school board for approval.