New Parker YMCA in Milton opens with community tours

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Neil Johnson
Sunday, November 10, 2013

MILTON—The grand opening of the Parker YMCA in Milton on Sunday had its share of Andy Warhol moments with a southern Wisconsin twist.

In the weight room of the $4.2 million, 25,000-square-foot full-service YMCA, which was completed late last week, one of the famous Klements racing sausage mascots cranked out a dozen chin-ups.

In the cardio room, which is decked out with scores of treadmills and elliptical training machines, and flooded with natural light through large windows, Milton Mayor Brett Frazier watched his young son try an elliptical training machine. Next to the Fraziers, another famed mascot, Bucky Badger, did The Twist to music playing over the building's loudspeakers.

Every TV in the exercise areas (a reporter counted nearly 20 of them) was tuned to the Packers game, as hundreds of people milled around the new facility to get a glimpse of things. There was even a green room set up with appetizers.

In a new gymnasium that smelled like fresh hardwood The Parker High School marching band blasted out Billy Joel's “We Didn't Start the Fire.”

And as he delivered a triptych of speeches sandwiched between orations by local dignitaries, YMCA of Northern Rock County CEO Tom Den Boer teared up. 

“We did it. We finally did it,” Den Boer said during a speech Sunday in the new gym.

The facility, which is located at 1360 Parkview Drive on Milton's south side, is officially open after eight years of planning and five years of fundraising by the YMCA of North Rock County and city officials.

The YMCA of Northern Rock County and stakeholders in the project have trumpeted the it as a hub for families in Milton and northern Janesville. Milton city officials view the Y, which has three acres of playing fields adjacent to the city's Crossridge Park, as a boon for economic development.

The bulk of planning and the fundraising came after the YMCA bought several acres of land from the city to develop the facility in 2008, just as the economy had sunk into a deep recession.

Frazier reflected on the challenge for the YMCA and its fundraising group had to bring a new facility to fruition through a recession and a soft economic recovery.

“It's been such a heavy lift, getting this facility raised out of the ground. It all was done during such a slow economic recovery. Their (The YMCA's) vision has been incredible,” Frazier said.

The YMCA had vetted project designs and financial plans through thousands of hours of meetings with its board, potential financial backers and city of Milton officials, and had even approached the Milton School District mid-stream in its planning about a potential school referendum to fund a swimming pool at the facility.

The project moved into the construction phase without a pool, but the grounds have room for future expansions. The facility has a spectrum of services and space in addition to its workout space and gym, including a youth center, daycare space and a community room. 

Frazier said he hasn't heard any immediate chatter about the potential of adding a pool. He said he's happy to see the community and planners in the YMCA bask in the glow of the facility as it stands.

Any member of the downtown Janesville YMCA will be able to use the Milton facility as part of a package deal. Den Boer has said that Janesville's Y, which has an aquatic center, will continue to be the YMCA of Northern Rock County's flagship location.

But Den Boer told The Gazette on Sunday the YMCA expects to see a big uptick in membership with the new Y as a population base of more than 20,000 people in the northern reaches of Rock County and thousands of others in adjacent counties now have a centralized spot to work out.

“As we started branching out with programs and satellite facilities in Janesville, Edgerton, Evansville and Milton, we've always had an eye on a Milton facility being a draw for people in areas north, south, west and east,” Den Boer said. “We've always had a regional approach with it, and we know we'll see a significant spike in membership.”

Lynette Cheatle, who lives on the northeast side of Janesville and is a YMCA member said she plans to use the new Y in Milton daily. She had previously used the Y's magnet gym off Highway 14 and next to Shopko in Janesville, before the YMCA closed that gym to make way for the new Milton facility.

“This is very exciting,” Cheatle said.

Gailen Pierce, 89, who lives on a farm across the road from the new Parker YMCA, said he's watched the building pop up from the ground. For years, he's walked daily at the Janesville Mall to treat neuropathy in his legs. He said the new Y's location will be more convenient for him to exercise.

“Only thing I'll miss is peaking in the mall's stores,” Pierce said. 

In an speech Sunday at the grand opening, Janesville-area native George S. Parker III, whose family foundation donated a $1 million lead gift for the Milton YMCA project in 2012, underplayed his own donation to push the project forward. The facility was named after the Parker family.

He instead lauded local politicians, the YMCA and planners who worked for years to make the project a reality.

“We've increased the appeal of this area in a tough economic time. The real winners are the people of Rock County,” Parker said.

Last updated: 7:17 pm Sunday, November 10, 2013

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