The Eau Claire YMCA
Some of my most memorable athletic experiences since I moved to Eau Claire in 1987 was when I played racquetball at the local YMCA every Saturday morning. I was the young guy playing with athletes who were 30 years my senior. As a 24-year-old, I had the opportunity to play with businessmen who were not only good athletes, but good people. In fact, they made the most of their athletic ability by making sure that I did most of the running on the court.
To this day, I relish those matches because I know the competition made me not only a better athlete, but a better person. Not only that, but I met many local business owners through my involvement with the "Y", which was instrumental in my ability to get my start as a small business owner.
I am not very physically fit anymore, nor am I a very committed member to the Eau Claire YMCA. But, I am one of 9,000 members, most of which I think support the concept of the local "Y" relocating and expanding to property located at the corner of North Clairemont Avenue and Menomonie Street. The proposed $30-40 million, 180,000-square-foot new YMCA complex could very well be a "huge dream ", as YMCA Executive Director Ken Van Es told me this week. But I really think the pipe dream is possible.
It is important to remember that the YMCA, which stands for Young Mens' Christian Association, is different than other for-profit health and fitness centers or exercise establishments that have flourished over the last decade. The "Y" is symbolic of the community and its ability to help young people grow and become better citizens.
There are too many people who know how important the YMCA is to the development of young adults to allow the existing "Y" to be the status quo. Unfortunately, those who best remember the value of the local "Y" are individuals who have no vested interest in the potential of the next generation, unless of course they have nephews, nieces and/or grandchildren.
I maintain that the value of having a local, vibrant YMCA facility that accommodates the next generation of parents, athletes and good people is something that I want to invest in. Raising $40 million is something that nobody can do alone, but I look forward to being part of a team to make sure that the next few generations have the ability to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by being a member of YMCA like I have and those before me. After all, the mission of the YMCA is to "Build strong kids, strong families and strong communities". If that slogan does not make for a great sales pitch, I don't know what does.