Kane Martinka (right) visited Winona Health Occupational Therapist Kyann Brown in May.
The Winona Area YMCA and Winona Health announced yesterday their plans to begin construction on a shared facility with dedicated space for pediatric occupational therapy patients.
by CHRIS ROGERS
Winona Health and the Winona Area Family YMCA have clinched a deal to build a $14.5-million facility on Winona Health’s campus, leaders for the two organizations announced yesterday. The brand-new Y building has been in-the-works for years, but Winona Health CEO Rachelle Schultz and YMCA Interim CEO Bill Soper said they have finalized the details of an agreement to construct the shared facility, a brand new Y building that will also house Winona Health’s Rehabilitative Services Department. Soil remediation work will begin this fall and a 12-month construction project will be launched in the spring, they stated.
“We’re excited,” Winona Health Occupational Therapist Kyann Brown said of the new facility in an interview earlier this year. She and her colleagues — in specialities ranging from speech therapy to cardiopulmonary rehabilitation — will get a 9,700-square-foot wing on the new building’s second floor, complete with a small pool dedicated to therapy and a small gym, a separate waiting room, and therapy rooms all specifically built for pediatric occupational therapy. Currently, Winona Health patients have to travel off-site to the current Y building for aquatic therapy. The new pool will be more convenient, and children-specific therapy rooms will have built-in equipment to serve young patients. The gym will allow parents to observe therapy without distracting from it, and the separate kids’ waiting room will allow youngsters to play without disturbing older clients. “The pediatric space will be sound-proofed, which is a big improvement,” Brown said with a laugh. It will be further away from the quiet massage-therapy sessions, too, Rehabilitative Services Department Manager Lucas Barbknecht added.
Winona Health started offering more pediatric therapy services within the last few years. “There’s a huge need,” Brown said. Brown spends part of her time working with children such as two-and-a-half-year-old Kane Martinka. Kane was born with a chromosome deletion that caused development delays, his mother, Beth Martinka, explained. “He couldn’t even crawl a year ago, which you wouldn’t believe,” Beth said. After regular therapy sessions, Kane is now walking everywhere and energetically grabbing play dough when Brown offers it. Beth said that some of her friends with special-needs children travel out of town multiple times per week for therapy sessions. “I couldn’t imagine,” she said, adding of the expanded pediatric therapy offerings Winona Health’s new space will provide, “It’ll be just so convenient having it here in town.”
YMCA and Winona Health leaders believe that by sharing the new space and working more closely together, they will be better able to reach their mutual goal of improving Winonans’ health and well-being. The YMCA has great programs that can help Winonans prevent chronic diseases, such as diabetes, Schultz said. Often, after patients finish therapy to recover from an injury or a heart attack, they want to continue exercising to stay healthy, but sometimes, gyms can be intimidating, Winona Health staff explained. The new, shared facility will allow Winona Health and the YMCA to offer a seamless transition from therapy to daily activity, Schultz said. “It eliminates that barrier. They’re in the building already,” she added. Other times, patients may not be motivated to exercise on their own, but they might enjoy the camaraderie of the Y’s group exercise classes, Barbknecht stated.
Leaders for the two organizations want the new facility to be a community gathering place, as well. Right next to the new home of the Y’s free daycare program for members, there will be a big, open lobby where people can meet up or get coffee from an adjacent cafe. “We know the social part of being a member of the Y is as important as the physical part,” Soper said. For her part, Beth was excited about the opportunity for her and her other children to use the Y while Kane goes to therapy. She had already been occasionally driving Kane’s siblings to the Y during Kane’s therapy sessions. “Sitting [in the waiting room] for an hour-and-a-half when you’re four is kind of a nightmare,” she explained. Now, it is all in the same building.
The Y’s new building has been a long time coming. It was first announced in 2016, when Y leaders hoped to break ground in late 2017. This spring, Soper said the Y planned to break ground in August. He later acknowledged in July that the project was taking longer than expected and the construction timeline was still up in the air. When the Y struck a deal to sell its current building to Fastenal in late July, the sale proceeds boosted the fundraising campaign to over $13 million. Now, the Y and Winona Health have ironed out the details of their co-location agreement — an important piece of the project. Winona Health will lease the land to the Y for $1. The Y will lease Winona Health space inside the Y’s new building. For now, Winona Health’s contributions to the fundraising campaign will be counted toward its lease payment, but eventually the health care organization will start paying rent to the Y, according to Schultz.
Soper said the Y’s facility committee voted last week to finalize the design of the building and the Y’s plans to begin construction. “We’re planning for the soil remediation work to all happen this fall, and the actual building will start this spring as soon as we can get in the ground,” he stated.
“It’s been a big journey certainly for the Y and the [Y] board, and the staff, and Winona Health, and I think there was, from the Y’s facility committee, a sense of relief last week,” Soper stated. It’s happening.
“While it’s taken a long time, we think this is really important,” Schultz stated. “There were lots of different hurdles to go through … It certainly takes time to work through those things. Nobody walked away because it’s that important.”
The Y is still over $1 million away from raising enough funds to pay for the project, but Soper said that the Y’s fundraising committee will be working hard to raise the final portion. “They’re confident that they can close that gap,” he stated, adding, “We know there are some donors who will be excited to see the project get underway.”
For the YMCA, the new building will be slightly smaller than the current Y, but it will be a nice, new facility that Y leaders believe will attract more members. “We’re projecting that we’re going to pretty quickly jump to 7,000 members, compared to the 4,000 members we’re serving today,” Soper stated. Other Y leaders have said that the maintenance needs of the current Y building and the staffing and operational expenses its maze-like layout require meant that staying in the current Y building was not financially feasible for the Y. “This new facility is going to be so much more efficient from an operating perspective,” Soper said.
According to new floor plans released yesterday, the Y building will include a six-lane pool, a whirlpool, sauna, and steam room on the pool deck, a strength training and cardio workout facility, two basketball courts, two racquetball courts, one fitness studio, and a cycling studio. There will be numerous family changing rooms along with the men’s and women’s locker rooms, a family fun center, and space for childcare and a nursery. The new building will be handicap accessible, and Y leaders have some land set aside for a possible future expansion.
The Winona Area YMCA offers reduced-price memberships on an income-based sliding scale. For more information visit www.winonaymca.org.
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