Cook Co. Breaks Ground on Multi-Million Dollar YMCA

Posted at: 12/10/2012 6:58 PM
Updated at: 12/10/2012 9:19 PM
By: Travis Dill

City, county and school officials broke ground on a new YMCA community center in Grand Marais on Monday.

Shovels were tossing snow across the Northland on Monday, but in Grand Marais they were digging into the dirt. The city, county and school district worked together to bring the YMCA to town.

Chris Francis is the President and CEO of the Duluth Area Family YMCA. He said partnerships with rural towns is new for the YMCA.

“It's a unique relationship between the Y and government where the local community votes to impose a tax to build a community center,” Francis said.

A 1 percent sales tax will pay the cost of building the $9 million facility. The City of Grand Marais will own the building, but the YMCA will operate it.

The new building will be attached to the Cook County School and even renovate some of it's athletic facilities. Superintendent Beth Schwarz said it is good for students and the new pool is the main attraction.

“Kids are really excited about the potential for the Y to come in and provide some competitive opportunities for swimming as well,” Schwarz said.

The city's current community center is outdated and costs the city $225,000 a year to operate. That is about the same as estimates for the new facility.

County Commissioner Sue Hakes said bringing in the YMCA will give residents a better deal.

“So we're hopeful that we'll get a new facility, a better facility and not have to increase cost to the taxpayers,” Hakes said.

Not everyone was happy about the project, but Hakes said the response has been mostly positive.

“Certainly there have been some concerns along the way, which we have addressed and we will continue to do so. But I think the community is very happy that we're going to have a gathering space,” Hakes said.

YMCA leaders said it may be a challenge to reach membership goals in a smaller community like Cook County, but they are optimistic about memberships and fundraising.

Family memberships should cost about $60 a month.