YMCA plans expansion in HermantownAn indoor recreational facility on top of the hill is something Hermantown Mayor Wayne Boucher has long dreamed of, he said Thursday.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
An indoor recreational facility on top of the hill is something Hermantown Mayor Wayne Boucher has long dreamed of, he said Thursday.
“The whole area, southern St. Louis County outside the city of Duluth, has the same need,” said Boucher, who has lived in Hermantown since 1977. “Unless you’re under 19 and into school athletics or intramural or parks and rec, there’s nothing. … We don’t have a place for pickup basketball games indoors.”
He was speaking after a news conference in the city’s government center, where a step toward that dream had just been announced.
Billed as the “Arrowhead Regional Health and Wellness Center,” the facility would be operated by the Duluth YMCA, said Chris Francis, the Y’s president and CEO.
“I think everybody knows the value of having a YMCA in the community,” Francis said during the news conference. “It is a driver — it is an economic driver, it is a health and wellness driver for the community.”
The new Y would be a branch of Duluth’s YMCA and not replace it, added Dan Urshan, chairman of the committee working on the project.
Nor would it be just Hermantown’s Y, although the city has taken the lead. Urshan, an investment adviser who was Hermantown mayor from 1995 to 2001, now lives in Fredenberg Township, where the board has unanimously endorsed the project, he said. So have the boards of Midway, Canosia, Grand Lake and Rice Lake townships. The St. Louis County Board, the Hermantown City Council, the Hermantown School Board and the Hermantown Area Chamber of Commerce all have passed resolutions of support, he added.
The project is in its earliest stages. The city and the YMCA have conducted a feasibility study, but there is no building plan, to time frame, no cost estimate and no certain location. The preferred site, Urshan said, would be on Hermantown school district property at Ugstad and Arrowhead roads near the present high school and middle school, and where voters approved building a new high school.
Francis said it’s envisioned as similar to the YMCA in Grand Marais, which is attached to the Cook County schools. That also is a branch of the Duluth YMCA.
The proposed location also would make it readily accessible to residents of surrounding townships, Urshan said. From Ugstad and Arrowhead, it took him 13 minutes to reach an engagement in Midway Township, 12 minutes to Grand Lake Township and 14 minutes to Fredenberg Township, he said.
The next step is the city’s application for $200,000 in bonding from the state for planning and pre-design, Urshan said. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, and state Rep. Mary Murphy, DFL-Hermantown, are the sponsors.
The proposal’s backers say they see it as a way to address troubling health statistics for the region. Urshan noted that 49.5 percent of residents in Carlton, Cook, Lake and St. Louis counties are considered obese or overweight. Also, St. Louis County ranks 72nd among the state’s 87 counties for “health outcomes” in terms of length and quality of life.
The committee envisions a facility with a fitness and aquatic center, multipurpose meeting space, child care and outdoor recreation areas, Urshan said. It would be intended for people from infants through senior citizens.
The latter is a particularly significant target group, Boucher said.
“We are experiencing an increasing senior population moving into Hermantown and surrounding areas, in assisted living and housing,” he said.