The following article is reprinted from Prairie Business Magazine.
by Chad Rettke, Senior Project Manager, Kraus-Anderson
With state-of-the-art amenities including an aquatic center, multi-purpose gym, running track, racquetball courts, weight room, cardio equipment, whirlpool and sauna, Wadena, Minn.’s new wellness center could give many a trendy urban health club a run for their money. Instead, the newly completed Maslowski Wellness and Research Center is the focal point for a multifaceted plan to put this rural Minnesota community on track to better health.
Wadena celebrated the grand opening of MWRC, or “The Mas,” on Dec. 6, 2014, marking another milestone in the community’s dramatic comeback from a devastating category EF4 tornado in June 2010. The tornado wiped out 20 city blocks of Wadena, including the school, a community center, municipal swimming pool, fair grounds, two city parks, as well as many homes and businesses. Working with Kraus-Anderson to sort through FEMA and insurance claims, Wadena has rebuilt, with well-planned infrastructure and incentives designed to attract business and residents. The 174,000-square-foot Wadena-Deer Creek Middle and High School, a LEED Gold, high-performance facility, features a combination auxiliary gym, community room and safe room shelter built to withstand an E5 tornado.
Now, right next door, MWRC continues that momentum. The center combines community and recreational resources in a 52,500-square-foot, two-story facility, offering a 13,200-square-foot aquatic facility with a lap pool, recreational pool, therapy pool, whirlpool, steam room and sauna; an 8,600-square-foot gymnasium, two racquetball courts, a fitness center with cardio and strength training equipment, walking track, locker rooms, community meeting space and party rooms next to the pool. A supervised Kid Zone is available for children ages 3-11 while their parents work out.
MWRC will also play a major role in a groundbreaking rural health research study funded by a grant from the Maslowski Charitable Trust. Wadena is one of the unhealthiest counties in the state, ranking 79th out of 87, according to 2013 statistics from the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute. The community shows a higher than state average incidence in adult obesity, premature deaths and smoking. The U.S. Census also ranks the Wadena area among the poorest in the state. To address these issues, Tri-County Health Care is in the early stages of what is expected to become a 7-10-year study measuring the health outcomes of Wadena residents.
“The new wellness center will drive the research needed for the study,” said Joel Beiswenger, president and CEO of Tri-County Health Care. “We will be working in conjunction with area employers and in the community at-large and through our various health engagement events to lead the health and wellness study. We are confident we will truly make a difference in the health status of our service area.”
Community members and local and state officials worked tirelessly to make the wellness center a reality. In the aftermath of the tornado, Kraus-Anderson worked to ensure the city’s needs were being addressed during development of a funding plan which involved numerous entities, including insurance companies, FEMA, the state and private donors. Along with Steven Miller Architects, a proactive approach was taken during design by doing budget estimates during each stage of design, pricing up various design options and alternates to allow the city to make informed design decisions.
It took nearly two years for the funding plan to be finalized, including a $4.2 million matching grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, along with a grant from the Cargill Foundation and CentraCare Foundation, which gave the project the final push forward.
Remarkably, the $12.4 million facility opened debt-free. In addition, a number of community partners have also stepped up to help residents overcome any financial barriers to using the facility. More than $330,000 in financial assistance is available to offset the cost of membership for low-income residents, thanks to grants from HealthPartners, Tri-County Health Care Foundation, South Country Health and other donors. A number of health insurance providers are also offering substantial reimbursements of membership dues to encourage more use of the facility.
“The vitality of a small town depends on many economic and social elements, including education, health care and other services to strengthen businesses as well as families,” said Bradley Swenson, Wadena’s city administrator. “Likewise, our new wellness center is an important asset for our area and will bring residents together for years to come.”