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Progress continues at the YMCA of the Northwoods as major projects are underway

Erin Gottsacker

Giant metal beams started going up behind the YMCA of the Northwoods in Rhinelander this winter.

That will eventually become the YMCA’s new gymnasium for the gymnastics center pickleball courts.

“Until the building is put together, we can’t really say what our timeline is, but we’re looking to complete the project in early August or so,” said Fred Hauser, the YMCA’s interim CEO.

Also part of this capital campaign, the YMCA converted the former South Park School in Rhinelander in 2020 to a childcare center which Hauser says serves around 85 kids.

It could provide for more than 100 kids but hasn’t reached capacity due to staffing.

“We’re looking for more staff who like to be around kids and are good at handling those kinds of situations. We’re in the market for more employees. The wages are competitive, and benefits are excellent,” said Hauser.

Altogether, the capital campaign is a nearly $3 million project that’s been continuing as the YMCA searches for its new CEO.

Search for the new CEO

Hauser stepped in as interim after Ryan Zietlow left last August.

The application period for the position has closed and Hauser says the search committee is currently narrowing the field of candidates.

The goal is to have someone on board by the end of May.

Hauser says as someone who’s worked at YMCA across the country for the better part of 40 years, he’s confident in the YMCA of the Northwoods future.

“I haven’t seen a community that was more supportive than the Rhinelander community, when I say Rhinelander I mean the communities surrounding it. We have outstanding volunteers, boards of the director, the committees and then outstanding staff that make sure the programs are conducted in a proper and quality way. I’m just very pleased and optimistic about the YMCA.”

Park Falls YMCA

The YMCA of the Northwoods is also in the process of expanding to Park Falls.

About a year ago, the City of Park Falls got a $5.6 million grant through the state’s Neighborhood Investment Fund Grant Program to build a facility.

Governor Evers hands over a check for more than $5.6 million to Anne Plessner, YMCA of the Northwoods CEO Ryan Zietlow, and Park Falls Mayor Michael Bablick
Katie Thoresen
Governor Evers hands over a check for more than $5.6 million to Anne Plessner, YMCA of the Northwoods CEO Ryan Zietlow, and Park Falls Mayor Michael Bablick

It will essentially be a satellite facility under the YMCA of the Northwoods.

At the end of last summer, an architect and builder were selected.

Hauser says a committee has come up with conceptual plans.

“We have now gone out to prospective donors to test those plans to see if we could raise enough funds for that building. Depending on the amount of money we can raise, will determine the scope and size of the project for the building we can build there,” said Hauser.

The number one priority is for the building to support childcare needs in the area.

Community members would also like to see wellness facilities like a gymnasium, a wellness center, and a community space.

“The community is 100% behind this project as could be. It’s illustrated by the number of steering committee members that we have. The community leaders in Park Falls are excited. If this can happen, they will make it happen,” said Hauser.

Hauser hopes to have more definitive plans set in the next 90 days.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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