A whopping 60,000 feet of opportunity. When Kingsland Middle School closed three years ago, the City of Wykoff had the chance to buy the building and repurpose it. When the City of Wykoff decided to pass, it was auctioned, bought, and then generously given to the Wykoff Commons Project. A whole team of people have put their hearts into this project, including nine members of the Wykoff Commons LLC and a large circle of supporters and volunteers. I was able to meet with two members of the LLC, Pastor Dave Stoeger and Mark Burmeister, who shared the building and potential future plans for it.
On our tour of the school, we viewed the soon-to-be-opened fitness center, which will be called Wykoff Health and Recreation Center (WHRC). “Early on over a year ago, when we would talk to people about a fitness center and about the school, there was a lot of support for preserving and using the school,” says Mark Burmeister. A member of the team purchased and donated all of the fitness equipment and it took a team to move it all into the building. The machines came in one piece, but to fit them into the east side of the building they needed to be disassembled. Every machine came through the main doors by the office. Burmeister remembers, “They were 35 inches wide, so almost every machine had to come apart. This was done in early January on a day where it was about zero. Half a dozen guys, a fork lift, and a semi-trailer,” and the machines were wrestled inside. After the acquisition of the whole property of Kingsland, the machines were actually moved a second time onto a lower level.
Moving ahead with the plans of a fitness center, the LLC transformed three rooms in the building and will soon be welcoming the public. The three large rooms hold specific equipment and include the circuit room, abs/free weights room, and cardio room. There will be instruction cards and television entertainment when using the machines. With pin code access, no member needs a key or card to enter. Operational hours will be from 6 a.m.-10 p.m., and the cost monthly fee is $25/individual, and $35/family. Or for those who want annual memberships, it will be $250/individual and $350/family. What makes the WHRC unique is that the building is also recreational. Kingsland Middle School has two full size gyms, which no other fitness center in the county offers. With indoor options of basketball, volleyball, tennis, and pickleball, the gym additionally offers opportunities for community events. The larger gym seats 850 people, which is more than enough room to seat every resident of Wykoff.
Dave Stoeger explains, “It’s something we can offer to the community that is good, that is healthy, that is wholesome, for all generations. From little kids, to youth and all the way up to seniors. It’s not only a place to work out, but these places become a neat place to socialize.” Future goals for the fitness center include adding a new locker room and a new floor for the large gym. “This is an ongoing project. We would love to see the community invest in it, and really appreciate it and expand on it,” he shared.
What most Wykoff residents remember most about Kingsland Middle School was the smaller gym. “The old gym is kind of the gem of the whole facility. That’s what a lot of people in the community remember and value. We have a focus on preserving that and making it available to the community,” shares Mark Burmeister. The gym walls are limestone blocks, and the hardwood floor is original. Built in 1939, it is a historical treasure with a plaque outside commemorating the WPA (Works Progress Administration Project). The exterior of the building looks like a castle fortress, and looks the part of its former name, Kingsland. The only stage in Wykoff is part of the old gym, and is utilized every year by St. Johns School. The school play this year had 300 attendees and $8,000 was raised for the WHRC. After a generous grant, new theater curtains were purchased for the stage and will be used for many future performances.
The LLC appreciates those who helped them through this process: Ness Painting and Taping of Leroy, Richard’s Pump Service of Fountain, Frank Electric of Preston, Custom Alarm of Rochester, Dan Hellerud of Ostrander, as well as Andrew Stachiw (roofing) and the volunteers who offered their time with painting.
The building will utilize the school’s fiber optic cable, and there will be high speed internet at WHRC thanks to ARVIG Internet. Wykoff Commons can be a place for families who don’t have adequate internet in the area, or workers who want to work remotely. If schools have to shift to distance learning, the old library can be repurposed for student workstations. Having high speed internet will draw many residents to Wykoff Commons, and future plans will continue to expand in this space. One of the rooms will be used by the Wykoff Historical Society. Another large room could potentially become a daycare. Most ambitious, an entire wing of the school converted into 750- to 800-square-foot apartments, with room for about eight separate apartments. “It is such a valuable facility… The City of Wykoff has spent millions and since 1939 invested 70 years into it. We wanted to do something to preserve it and use it. We haven’t figured out how to utilize the whole facility right now, but if we can start utilizing some parts of it I think that’s a benefit to the community. They’re getting something back for all the investment they’ve put into over the years,” shared Mark Burmeister.
September 26 will be the grand opening, and it will coincide with the Wykoff Town and Country 6K Run/Walk, a race to raise funds for the WHRC. The 6K will wind around the countryside, but will start at the north end of the school and end on the south side. The walk/run includes a t-shirt and one month free trial use of the fitness center. Participants can register online and the run is $35 and the walk is $30. The WHRC became possible after fundraising and generous grants, including a donation from Olmsted Medical Center. After walking through the entire building, Dave turned to me and said, “It’s here for the use and betterment of the community. We’d love to see people here. I really think we’ve got a good thing here, all we need is for people to see what we’re doing and participate in this work.”