WINONA — Key stakeholders in the Winona Family YMCA community gathered Thursday night to hear what has long been rumored: It's time for the Winona YMCA to move.
Derek Madsen, chief executive officer of the Winona YMCA, said the capital campaign's silent phase is officially over, and it is time to let those connected with the YMCA and the community as a whole in on the secret.
"We've raised about $9 million, and we're moving to a goal of $13 million," he said. Additionally, the YMCA has a soft commitment for another $2.52 million for a total of more than $11.5 million.
"This has been Winona's worst-kept secret for the last couple of years," said Ken Mogren, a member of the fundraising committee. "We've raised enough to consider it a go."
Including the soft donations, the YMCA capital campaign is at about 88 percent of its goal, he said.
The current YMCA building, located at 207 Winona St., was built in 1949 and has roughly 77,000 square feet of space. "But we're actively programming in only 37,000 square feet," Madsen said. "There's a lot of underutilization of space there."
The building, the second in the 130-year history of the Winona YMCA, has been added onto three times, meaning movement around the building and the functionality of the space can be limited. That is especially true for people with mobility issues, Madsen said. "The elevator is located way in the back, and can be hard to get to."
The new building will be built on a 5.5-acre site adjacent to Winona Health. The new YMCA will partner heavily with Winona Health for patient rehabilitation and preventative health.
"We're excited about sharing our success with Winona Health," said Andy Blomsness, former director of the YMCA.
The new facility should cover roughly 55,000 square feet of space, Madsen said. That space will be better utilized and more accessible for all YMCA visitors.
"We need to know the budget to fully design it," he said. "We hope to begin site development at the end of the summer or early fall. The more we raise, the bigger the facility will be."
The old YMCA building will be sold, and that sale has been counted toward the money already raised. "We've spent over two years trying to find an alternative use for the building," Madsen said.
Part of the problem is the location, right next to the approach ramp for the new U.S. Highway 43 bridge in Winona. The other issue is there is limited call for a building with a pair of swimming pools. The YMCA has an agreement with Kwik Trip for the property, but there are several hurdles to clear before that deal is finalized.
Madsen noted that along with the YMCA's history in Winona, Winona Health has been a part of the community for 124 years. With the changing health needs of the community — preventative health care, obesity and sedentary lifestyles along with growing epidemics such as type-2 diabetes — the two organizations working together can be a positive force for Winona.
"Who is better positioned to handle this than these two organizations together," he said.
Will Oberton, a member of the fundraising committee, said the goal with announcing the project was to get the remaining $1.5 million needed for construction to begin.
"What we don't want to do is burden this Y with a lot of debt," he said. "We're not going to raise money to service debt."