Mayor Don Richards, a YMCA member and board volunteer, said last week that recent board discussions, as well as 'grapevine fodder,' have included positive talk about the nonprofit staying put and perhaps working out a deal to expand at its current location.

He said conditions are favorable for the Y to reach agreement with Nash Finch, owner of the Riverside Plaza building on Main Street that houses Econofoods, Pizza Hut and the Y.

The building is undergoing a major remodel this year.

Richards characterizes the deal as potential-and-unsigned but making progress and getting closer. He comments that Nash Finch has been "really good" to the Y.

The mayor acknowledges it is commonly known that the grocer subsidized the Y's rent during the recession but after remodeling, hoped to fill its building with "revenue-generating" tenants.

Richards said to sustain itself either at current or an expanded capacity, the Y must do a good job of building membership. He estimates membership units, which can include more than one person, to stand around 400 now -- a number he thinks needs to double.

District executive for the YMCA Twin Cities Mike Lavin confirms that the Y has discussed how it can best serve River Falls and is working on its overall program impact here.

Lavin said while the Y's "confidence is high" on those goals, he warns that no deal has been made. There is neither a schedule nor financial plan to share, and no set details attached to the board discussions and local hearsay, according to Lavin.

He said, "All of those details are being looked at right now."

Lavin said while the intent exists for the Y to examine its options, nothing has been decided or planned.

Peek at potential

Richards shares a bit of the "wishful thinking" expressed in board meetings and among Y supporters.

Those included occupying more space, adding more child-care options, considering more staff and equipment, looking at competitors, possibly extending hours and thinking how best to serve teens and younger members.

Richards said if the Y were to stay in its current space -- expanded or not -- the building remodel will leave an entrance on the south side of the building.

He said the door that used to provide access between the "mall" area and the grocery store has been permanently closed.

The mayor said he understands that Pizza Hut will occupy its current space, but the other space in the mall -- once occupied by a sandwich shop, an insurance company and a movie-rental place -- would be available to paying tenants.

Current campaign

Richards mentions the upcoming start of the Y Partners campaign that seeks to raise about $36,000. Richards remembers 'better times' when the campaign would generate twice that amount.

He and Lavin both clarify that the campaign is unrelated to River Falls' physical location.

The money raised through Y Partners pays for River Falls' share of the funding that provides stipends for low-income families and scholarships for youth activities such as Model UN, Youth in Government and summer camps.

Lavin says everything related to the local Y Partners campaign is 100% from and for River Falls.

Richards encourages support of the Y via board membership, too. The current volunteer board consists of eight people who meet once a month and provide input to the YMCA Twin Cities organization, which makes the management decisions.

He said of the board, "We'd like it to be at 15 or 20."

With a bigger board, he says, members could form committees and be more active.

Lavin agrees and said, "We would love to have anyone in the community that would like to volunteer."

Richards says his membership costs him $45 a month for the single, local location. He says other types can be bought that allow access to multiple locations.

Asked what people seem to like about the local Y, the mayor replied, "It's always very clean."

He emphasized the good-hygiene practices and childcare for people while they exercise. He said people find it convenient and family friendly, with personal and social amenities.

Lavin estimates that by about mid-March, the Y should have a more detailed understanding of future local plans.