Dane County Boys and Girls Club C-E-O Michael Johnson has a plan. He wants to build a massive sports complex to help more kids in the area get active. But his route isn’t necessarily conventional.
Johnson wants Walmart to hand over the closed Sam’s Club on the Far West Side. That’s right, for free.
That location closed its doors along with Sam’s Clubs across the country as part of wave of closings nationwide.
Johnson says with the help of grants and donations — and maybe city or county support — they can turn the 6 million dollar property into a sports complex for kids and teenagers.
While the idea of a corporation like Walmart handing over a property worth millions of dollars might sound far fetched, Johnson’s hopeful — especially since he has community leaders behind him.
“Just imagine if we had a regional sports in our region,” Johnson says. “Our young people deserve these kinds of activities.”
Plus, he says the gift from Walmart would be tax deductible — which gives him even more confidence that the corporation will decide to donate the land and building.
Coaches and athletic directors in the Madison area say this facility would be transformative when they’re trying to
Johnson hopes to open up the facility to kids who normally wouldn’t be able to afford a rec facility like this with scholarships — offsetting those with fees from families who can afford it.
Plus, he says nonprofits will be sure to pitch in if they see Walmart’s donation. Madison school board member Anna Moffit says the space would be an important supplement to the school district’s existing facilities.
Johnson has already been on the phone with people from Walmart, who haven’t given him an answer yes or no yet. He’s scheduled for another call tomorrow morning.
Johnson’s prepared to camp out at their Arkansas headquarters until he can meet with the CEO, if all else fails.
Sam’s Club said in a statement it’s too early to comment on how the facility will be used in the future — but they’ll have a better idea in the coming weeks and months.
But for now, the old Sam’s Club is standing empty.