The Boys and Girls Club of Dane County’s Board of Directors on Tuesday voted to make an offer on a church building in Sun Prairie, potentially expanding the organization’s services to the growing city, pending commitments for funds from the City of Sun Prairie, Dane County’s Community Development Block Grant program and the local business community — commitments that have not yet been made.
Boys and Girls Club CEO Michael Johnson, who has announced he will depart the Club and Madison later this summer, declined to disclose the amount the club will offer for the property being sold by Peace Evangelical Lutheran Church on Windsor Street, but said the offer will be “not too far off” from the $1.3 million asking price. He said the Club will commit up to $500,000 and seek financial assistance from the city, county and private donations to make up the difference.
Johnson said he hopes to make an offer this week and, if the City and County commit funds, potentially open the center as early as September.
“We’ll put up about a half a million dollars, but we also want to make sure the city has skin in the game,” Johnson said. “They’ve been asking us for ten years to put a Boys and Girls Club in Sun Prairie.”
Johnson said the location, which already houses a daycare, could serve 250 to 300 youth every day, making it roughly equivalent in size to established centers on Madison’s South Side and in Fitchburg. Johnson also said the property includes a house in addition to the church building, which the Boys and Girls Club would convert into a teen center.
Johnson said he’s received “positive signals” from both City and County, and Sun Prairie Mayor Paul Esser said he’s open to the discussion, but no commitments have been made.
“They’ve done some support of our community schools and some other things and they were talking about maybe some small physical presence,” Esser said. “We had an hour’s worth of discussion and said we were all for them becoming involved. Anything that is going to benefit the people here. And at the tail end of the meeting, we were talking about potential places and we told them we were aware of this church that had a gymnasium and other pieces to it. It was never our intention that that’s the place they ought to start, but they, after our meeting, went and looked at it and got excited about it.”
Esser said the City is definitely open to discussion of City funds supporting the purchase of the church property but no commitments have been made, especially for such a potentially large center.
“The city is interested in seeing them here,” he said. “We said to them in the meeting that over time as their program develops, there may be a place for the city to assist them in some way, shape or form. But all of that was undefined what that might be … It’s the scope that we’re just not sure of. We just haven’t been brought along on that.”
The Boys and Girls Club is not the only party interested in the property. At least one other church and an organization looking to start a charter school have also expressed interest.