Donors and board members tossed shovelfuls of dirt at a groundbreaking for the new Winona Family YMCA building last October. Y leaders said actual construction on the project will begin on Monday and should wrap up by October 2020.
by CHRIS ROGERS
The Winona Family YMCA’s new building will be even more expensive than last estimated: $22 million in total. Despite that, Y leaders are moving forward with the project; they have raised an extra $4 million already, and CEO Janneke Sobeck said the long-awaited construction project will begin next week.
When the Y first announced in 2016 its plan to construct a new YMCA building in collaboration with Winona Health, the project was estimated to cost $13 million. Design and leadership changes delayed the project, and prices inched upward, reaching an estimated total of $18 million this spring. Then, Y officials opened bids from contractors in June. The low bid was $17.4 million for the building construction. Y leaders had hoped it would be significantly lower. Together with other costs — engineering, fixing nearby storm sewer pipes, buying furniture, and financing loans to cover pledged-but-yet-to-be-received donations — the project’s total expected cost rose to $22 million.
“The architect was hoping for something closer to $16 million, so that was a challenge for all of us in the room when we opened the bid,” Sobeck acknowledged. “It was a little frustrating to say the least.”
Sobeck explained that inflation in labor and material costs together with a tight market for contractors’ time contributed to the higher-than-expected cost. The Y had invited 10 firms to bid on the project, but only three did; the others just did not have enough capacity to take it on, Sobeck said. Contractors are hiring people from other communities to handle Winona construction projects and paying workers overtime to deal with demand, she said. “We wanted to start this this year, and that’s a time when the market is really hot,” Sobeck added.
Driving pilings into the marshy ground on Winona Health’s campus in order to support the heavy building is also a significant expense.
Nevertheless, the YMCA board agreed to accept the low bid from Eau Claire, Wis.,-based Market & Johnson general contractors. “That was a hard decision to make, but one that we knew as a board was needed for the community,” Sobeck said. “We had this partnership with Winona Health, the Red Cross, and Live Well Winona that we would have potentially risked losing if we didn’t go ahead … We had this great opportunity to have a great location and a great partnership that we just couldn’t pass up.” She added, “Another thing that we would potentially risk losing is the new market tax credit allocation.” The Y hopes to win $1.7 million in federal tax credits for the project. “To potentially throw that away with another delay — we just couldn’t afford that,” Sobeck explained.
The YMCA’s Capital Campaign Committee members are confident they can connect with the community, help them understand the benefits of this project, and raise the money needed, Sobeck continued.
The committee has already made significant progress, landing $4 million in new pledges over the last three months and bringing up the total of pledged donations to $17.2 million, according to the Y.
The Y expects to hear whether it will win the federal tax credits in October. If it does, that would bring the funding total to nearly $19 million.
“We need your help,” Capital Campaign Committee Chair Ken Mogren said in a statement. “If you haven’t yet supported the project, now would be a good time to step forward. If you’ve already given, we thank you for your generous support, and ask you to please consider increasing your gift.” Supporters may make a contribution by contacting Ellen Jewison at email@example.com or 507-454-1520.
“The YMCA is very much looking forward to this new space, but I’m also looking forward to new members seeing what the Y has to offer,” Sobeck told the Post. “We have such a wonderful and unique community at the Y, and I look forward to sharing that with the community.”
Construction is expected to be completed by next October.
Market & Johnson has experience building the La Crosse YMCA, a Gundersen Health System clinic in a Sparta, Wis., and a Minong, Wis., aquatic and fitness center, among other projects.