The Eau Claire YMCA plans to move its gymnastics program to a warehouse just east of Altoona, more than doubling the floor space of its current location.
The YMCA has its sights set on a building at 7467 Kent Ave., south of U.S. 12 in the town of Washington, that has enough room to allow multiple groups to practice at once.
“In the new facility, we would be able to run classes and teams at the same time,” YMCA executive director Ken Van Es said.
The YMCA would use 17,400 square feet in the Kent Avenue building, compared with the 7,000 square feet it currently occupies at the YMCA Tennis Center on Moore Avenue in Eau Claire.
“We could run meets there, which we can’t do at our current facility,” Van Es noted. When the YMCA has hosted an annual gymnastics meet in the past, it had to use a local high school gymnasium.
The gymnastics center move is currently set for late April, Van Es said.
The move is prompted by the YMCA leaving its old tennis center for the new $10 million complex donated by the Menard family, which is under construction and scheduled to open in early spring on Menomonie Street. The Eau Claire-based Menards home improvement retail chain will then take ownership of the Moore Street tennis center, and company spokesman Jeff Abbott said in an email that the intention is to sell it.
Van Es noted pros and cons for the planned rural location of the gymnastics program. While it is 6½ miles from the YMCA’s main facility at 700 Graham Ave. in downtown Eau Claire, it is just off U.S. 12, which could increase gymnastics participation from Altoona and Fall Creek youths.
The YMCA has been searching for a while for a building to fit the needs of the gymnastics program. Van Es said part of the difficulty was due to finding a building that not only had the right square footage, but also ceilings that were 17 feet tall or higher.
Equipment from the existing gymnastics program will be moved out to the new building, but Van Es said additional equipment will be needed to fully utilize the larger space.
The warehouse, owned by Cyrus Stafslien, was built in 2002 with one tenant at that time but was modified in 2016 to allow for up to three tenants, according to information submitted to the county for a prior permit.
The YMCA will take up about two-thirds of the 26,000-square-foot building, with the rest used for warehouse space.
The warehouse will undergo some interior work — adding a restroom, an office and a changing room — to make it ready for gymnastics, Van Es said.
Whether this is a permanent move for the gymnastics program is yet to be seen, as the YMCA is planning a replacement for its main building.
“There is a chance we would stay out there longer,” Van Es said of the Kent Avenue building.
The YMCA is in a partnership with UW-Eau Claire and Mayo Clinic Health System to create the Sonnentag Event and Recreation Complex on Menomonie Street. Athletic facilities there would replace the YMCA’s building on Graham Avenue, but it’s yet to be decided if a gymnastics area would be part of that facility. Tentative plans call for some construction to take place by 2020, but no deadline has been set for an opening of the center.
The YMCA holds several eight-week classes for preschool and school-age children, which attract between 200 and 275 students. Another program, the Junior Olympic Compulsory Team Program, has about 80 gymnasts that practice year-round.
General hours of operation for the gymnastics facility will be between 4 and 9 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekends, according to a permit request the YMCA filed with Eau Claire County.
The maximum number of people expected to use the gymnastics building on a given day is about 100.
The YMCA is seeking permission from the town of Washington and the county to use part of the warehouse building as a recreational facility. The Town Board has a hearing scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday at Town Hall, 5750 Old Town Hall Road. The county’s Planning and Development Committee will consider awarding a permit at its 7 p.m. meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 27, at the courthouse, 721 Oxford Ave.
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