YMCA of the Northwoods facility expansion begins
Benefactor donates $1 million
By Eileen Persike
A Rhinelander resident’s $1 million donation to the YMCA of the Northwoods has set in motion a facility expansion at the main campus. Gale Willcox was announced last week as the benefactor whose gift pushed the Y’s Building for the Future capital campaign fundraising goal over the top.
“There’s no organization in Rhinelander better positioned to help the greatest number of people than our YMCA,” Willcox stated in a press release. “I know my late husband Dale would be pleased as I am to contribute to the expansion and ongoing success of the Y.”
During an announcement event last week, YMCA of the Northwoods CEO Ryan Zietlow said the donation insured that the work would come to fruition and also allowed the board of directors to “step back and see if we could do more for those around us.”
The planned facility expansion of the Y will add over 14,000 square feet to the existing building along with renovations to existing spaces, including a new gymnasium with pickleball courts, a walking track and gymnastics center, a new and larger aerobics studio, a gathering room in the front lobby and a 1,600-square-foot outdoor pavilion.
“What Gale may have given was to a capital campaign; helped us realize brick and mortar,” Zietlow said. “In reality, what Gale has done is invested in each one of us, our connections, our support and our future.”
Board of directors Chief Volunteer Officer Jake Weinand thanked volunteers, board members and those who have contributed to the Y since its beginning nearly 20 years ago. He said the Rhinelander community is growing, and the Y right along with it.
“The amount of money and generosity that our community has raised in the last few years on multiple projects, including this one, is extremely impressive, especially for a community of our size,” Weinand said. “Rhinelander continues to be a hub of the Northwoods, continues to grow; we’re a part of that and that’s really exciting and I’m really excited to see what comes next.”
Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lauren Sackett told those in attendance that the chamber has seen firsthand the Y’s impact on the community. The expansion, she said, will benefit more than YMCA members, guests, youth campers and other users.
“A strong YMCA helps make the entire Rhinelander area, and the entirety of the Northwoods of Wisconsin, a better and more attractive place to live and work,” said Sackett.
A capital campaign was started in 2019. Phase one of the Y’s expansion involved the acquisition and remodeling of what is now the Youth Development Center on Pelham Street. Plans are underway for phase three, expanding opportunities for out of school time for youth, expanding space for after school care and community space.
“While phase three might not be within our reach right now, we know that with the support of our community and this future vision it will become a reality,” Zietlow said.
The Y’s current phase two construction is expected to be completed in 2023. KSW Construction, which recently expanded to the Northwoods, is the general contractor.
Pictured above, A few YMCA day campers joined staff, volunteers and contractors to officially break ground for an expansion for the Rhinelander campus.