Photo courtesy of Woodson YMCA

Wausau Pilot & Review

Editor’s note: This regular feature shares the stories of locally-owned and operated businesses and organizations in the Wausau area, highlighting the products and services they offer and the ways they contribute to the metro area’s unique flavor. Learn how to feature your business by emailing [email protected].

This week’s featured business is the Woodson YMCA, a Wausau institution for 130 years. The organization traces its roots back to 1891, about a half-century after the world’s first YMCA was born in England “for the betterment of the human condition.” At that time, a YMCA launched in Wausau at the home of C.J. Winton, according to the organization’s history page. The first YMCA building was constructed in 1893 and had 267 members. Wausau quickly outgrew that space and in 1907, a lot at the YMCA’s present site was purchased. Major changes happened again in 1962 with a new, larger building and a change in the YMCA’s constitution that enabled women and girls to be included in membership as well, paving the way for the organization to become the family-centered YMCA it is today. Through all its decades of growth, progress and expansion, the Wausau YMCA has consistently been “an organization for everyone” regardless of economic status, thanks to its generous scholarship program. The Woodson YMCA-Aspirus Branch opened its doors in Weston in 2005, and the most recent effort to transform the downtown facility began in 2019. Those robust plans provided more classrooms to serve the community’s growing child care needs, launched a senior activity center – The Landing – and expanded a thriving gymnastics program. Today with the YMCA’s flagship facility in downtown Wausau, the Aspirus YMCA Branch in Weston and satellite programs in Mosinee, the Woodson YMCA continues to be a positive influence in people’s lives. Woodson YMCA CEO Bryan Bailey, who has been with the organization for 28 years, said the Y has a strong team of directors, staff and volunteers who share a common goal – to better the community. “We have a very positive culture at the Y,” Bailey said. “It’s a great place to work and belong.” Here is what he had to say about the Woodson YMCA, its programs and its future in Wausau.

Q: When was the YMCA established?

A: The Woodson YMCA is a 501c3 non-for profit organization that was first established in the Wausau area back in 1881.  Over the last 130 years it has continued to grow and serve the needs of our community.

Q: What services do you offer?

A: The YMCA has three main areas of focus: Youth Development, Healthy Living and Social Responsibility. There is something for everyone at every age. We offer a wide range of group exercise classes in large studios, in water and online. Our exercise equipment is state-of-art, making it possible to watch your favorite shows or hike the Grand Canyon while on a treadmill. The new indoor glass walking track has panoramic views of Wausau, showcasing the historical downtown district and the newer, modern buildings by the Riverwalk. Our field-house, gymnastics studio, ball courts and summer camps support all of our youth programs that help provide a safe place for kids to play and build confidence. We have drop in mini-care for small children, giving parents a chance to join a class or workout. Multiple swimming pool locations provide life saving swimming classes and water safety skills for children. The Landing serves our ages 55+ community with a place to connect, exercise and socialize.

Q: What makes the YMCA unique and sets you apart from other facilities?

A: The Y is not just a gym, it’s a community center. One of the biggest needs in our community was childcare for infants and toddlers. Our expansion has allowed us to almost double the amount of families we serve. Our childcare centers provide much needed care in both our Wausau and Weston locations. The dedication of our teachers and staff is incredible, our childcare centers never closed during the pandemic.

Q: What are you most proud of accomplishing?

A: We are most proud of our Community Supported Membership Program. We never turn anyone away who cannot afford a membership. We raise funds every year to help anyone who wants to join the YMCA to be able to. Donating to the Community Partners Campaign gives kids, seniors and families an opportunity to become a part of the Y community.

Q: How have you changed and evolved over time? What’s different now from when the YMCA first opened?

A: The Woodson YMCA took on a $25 million expansion project to better serve our community with a larger child care center as well as expanding all aspects of our building and programs we offer. We partnered with Aspirus to create a Health and Wellness Campus in downtown Wausau. The Davis Foundation made it possible for the Y to create The Landing and serve our 55+ communities needs.

Q: What challenges have you had to overcome?

A: Closing for three months in 2020 was challenging, as the Y is a place for gathering and connecting. Our community needs us and we need them. The expansion happened at just the right time. It has created an opportunity for people to come back to a larger YMCA with plenty of space to feel healthy and safe.

Q: Where you you see the YMCA headed in the future?

A: The Woodson YMCA has two main branches at our Wausau and our Aspirus locations, The Landing for our 55+ community, along with our Summer Camp Sturtevant, which has more than 3,000 kids every summer. Our hopes and dreams for the future are to continue to support our community by providing a safe and healthy place for everyone to belong and feel connected. It’s a great day at the Y!

Connect with the Woodson YMCA

Visit the Woodson YMCA online here. For membership information, click here. For class, gym and pool schedules, click here.

Wausau Branch

  • 707 Third St., Wausau
  • 715-845-2177

Aspirus Branch

  • 3402 Howland Ave., Weston
  • 715-841-1850

Mosinee Satellite

  • 700 High St., Mosinee
  • 715-693-2550 x 3441