YMCA to pursue partnership with UW-Eau Claire for event center project

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (YMCA NEWS RELEASE) -- The YMCA in Eau Claire has announced that at their recent meeting the Board of Directors voted to pursue joining the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire as a partner in the County Materials Event and Recreation Complex project announced on Aug. 5, 2014. The complex is to be constructed on the Menomonie Street land that is being donated by County Materials and the John and Carolyn Sonnentag Foundation to Blugold Real Estate, LLC, a subsidiary of the UW Eau Claire Foundation. The project will include an events center to replace UW Eau Claire's Zorn Arena. In addition the proposal includes building an activity center that would serve as a student recreation center and as the YMCA for community and area residents. Ken Van Es, executive director for the YMCA, stated that "in concept, this project would be a multigenerational facility where people of all ages would feel welcome and comfortable."

Under the proposal the university and YMCA would construct and own separate complimentary buildings that would be shared by both organizations. Through use agreements between the two organizations people using the facility would not know the difference and for them it would be one center. Details of this collaboration still need to be finalized and both parties are committed to doing so in a timely manner. "UW-Eau Claire is pleased and honored that the YMCA will be joining us in this project" said Chancellor Jim Schmidt. "By working together, we will be able to serve the needs of both the campus and the community in ways that maximizes use of this extraordinary site, leverages financial resources and minimizes duplication of facilities."

A local health care provider also will be involved in the project. Two years ago the Eau Claire YMCA reached an agreement in concept to partner with Mayo Clinic Health System to design innovative ways to work together in meeting the future health and wellness needs of the region. Their common mission of improving community health was the driving force in making this partnership a reality. Since then, Mayo Clinic Health System and the YMCA have partnered on several programs to address community health issues, including Camp Wabi for kids who struggle with obesity and Woman's Wellness Camp. Both organizations have also shared facilities for several years. This opportunity will allow Mayo Clinic Health System and the Y to take their collaboration to the next level and to add the University to the partnership. "The YMCA and Mayo Clinic Health System are committed to promoting health and wellness in the community", said Dr. Randall Linton, president and CEO of Mayo Clinic Health System sites, in Northwest Wisconsin. "Partnering with the University on its latest expansion will bring new health and wellness opportunities to the people of the Chippewa Valley."

Douglas M. Johnson, President of the Board of Directors, indicated that the vote by the Board to pursue this option was unanimous. "We are very excited about this proposal as collaborating with the University and Mayo Clinic Health System will allow us all to provide a better facility for the students and the community than any of us could provide on our own. The dynamics of having young and old alike in the same facility is also an exciting prospect and was an attractive part of the decision to pursue this option. Many people don't realize how many student members that the Y already has. They blend in perfectly with everybody else we have here. It really is what makes the Y, the Y."

Over the last ten years, the YMCA has struggled to find the right site to build a new facility.

Many sites have been considered but have not been chosen for a variety of reasons. The proposed location for this new center on Menomonie Street meets all of the criteria the YMCA needs: it is centrally located, the location is served by public transportation, and the recreation facilities in the area, including the recreation, trail expand the potential programming opportunities exponentially.

The proposed timeline for this facility to be constructed is five years or faster. Funding for this facility will come from a variety of sources but certainly will include the need for private fund raising. The Y has been in Eau Claire since 1881. This will be the fourth building it will serve the community with.

Johnson summed it up by stating "There are a lot of details that need to be worked out but our focus will be on making this a successful collaboration."

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