Eau Claire YMCA’s new location

Story by The Spectator Staff

The Eau Claire Leader-Telegram recently published and article about how the Eau Claire YMCA is planning to ask the Eau Claire City Council for more time to raise the funding to build a new facility near Carson Park.

The original plans for the new YMCA were unveiled in 2007 and, at the time, were estimated to cost $30 million to $40 million, but was since changed to about $20 million to $25 million.  As of now, the YMCA still has yet to raise that amount.

When the development agreement was first written up, the YMCA had three years to raise the funding and start construction on the 7-acre space at the corner of Clairemont Avenue and Menomonie Street, but the deadline expired on Jan. 20.

The city of Eau Claire has the option to now pay the $430,000 that the YMCA used to purchase the land back and put the land on the market, hold onto the land for public purposes or give the YMCA more time to get their funding.

The editorial board mostly thought it would be beneficial to give the YMCA more time.

The YMCA is a great resource for a community and for both kids and adults, so a new facility should definitely be a priority, especially given the state of the current one.  It’s small, outdated and it has to cater to an increasing amount of people.

The YMCA has before and after school programs for children, affordable athletic equipment and programs to promote community.  It’s probably
better than most anything else the land could be used for, and since nothing is there and there are no other plans currently for the land, it doesn’t hurt to give a reliable community-driven program like the YMCA its due.

In the story, one councilman — Bob Von Haden — said that he believes the due date should be final and that the YMCA has had more than enough time to come up with the money, the plan and start construction.

Von Haden added that he would like to see the land be converted to more park space and while that is not a terrible idea, the editorial board agreed that Eau Claire has plenty of parks all over town.

That’s not to say that more parks is a bad idea, but the YMCA needs this new facility more than Eau Claire needs parks and should be prioritized as such.  Carson Park is very near the site and it’s one of Eau Claire’s largest and most developed parks.  It wouldn’t make sense to have another so close.

The City of Eau Claire has also been long at harping about revitalizing the downtown area, which is great and it presents itself with an opportunity involving the current YMCA.  The old facility is smack in the middle of downtown.  If the YMCA gets the new building, the old one can be replaced with any number of options, most of which could give a new face to downtown.

In all, there’s no harm in letting the YMCA have a little more time, because the positive impacts of a new facility could be many for several different parts of Eau Claire and far outweigh the negatives.