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YMCA of the Northwoods expansion begins after Rhinelander resident contributes $1 million

A $1 million donation from Rhinelander resident Gale Willcox is allowing the YMCA of the Northwoods to move forward with plans to expand its facility.

The YMCA released its plans and recognized Willcox at a ceremony Thursday morning.

The multi-million-dollar expansion will add 14,000 square feet to the YMCA of the Northwoods’ existing facility.

The new space will include a gym with pickleball courts and a gymnastics center, an outdoor pavilion to serve summer campers, a larger aerobics center and a gathering room in the front lobby.

“The ability to see support during a pandemic is truly heartfelt,” said Ryan Zietlow, CEO of the YMCA of the Northwoods. “In looking at that, the most exciting piece is it opens up opportunities for all in our community a safe, affordable place to belong.”

Plans for the YMCA of the Northwoods' expansion
YMCA of the Northwoods
Plans for the YMCA of the Northwoods' expansion

The expansion is the culmination of a capital campaign that has been ongoing since 2019.

Zietlow said the YMCA initially planned only to add a larger gymnasium and outdoor pavilion. But Willcox’s donation caused the Y’s leadership and board to think bigger.

“That $1 million dollars, what it allowed us to do is to look beyond just an 8,000 square foot gymnasium, and allowed us to look at repurposing our aerobics studio to be a gathering space, to add an additional space within the pavilion, and to add the generation center to ensure that’s a resource for youth and teens for years to come,” Zietlow said.

He credits Willcox with making this vision become a reality.

“What Gale has given is to a capital campaign to help us realize brick and mortar,” he said. “In reality, what Gale has given has invested in each one of us.”

Construction on the addition will begin soon. Zietlow says it is expected to be completed by mid-2023.

The expansion is the second phase of the YMCA’s Building for the Future capital campaign. In 2020, the YMCA converted the former South Park School in Rhinelander to a childcare center which now serves nearly 100 kids.

Erin Gottsacker worked at WXPR as a Morning Edition host and reporter from December 2020 to January 2023. During her time at the station, Erin reported on the issues that matter most in the Northwoods.
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