MADISON, Wis. - Boys & Girls Club of Dane County CEO Michael Johnson now has community leaders on Madison's southwest side backing his proposal to repurpose the old Sam's Club building.
At a news conference Monday, Johnson and several community leaders from Madison's southwest side said they're asking Walmart to donate the Sam's Club building so they can create a regional youth sports center where kids and teens can play games and sports.
"Just imagine if we had a regional sports complex in our community that had a football field, a soccer field, multiple basketball courts, a batting cage," Johnson said.
He said Walmart would be able to write off the $6 million cost of the building if it were a gift.
"We know that this is a long shot, but ask not and receive not," Johnson said.
Walmart corporate communications senior manager Laura Ladd Poff sent News 3 a statement saying, "We have heard from the Boys and Girls club and are currently evaluating all of our options for the building. We hope to know more soon, and will definitely share the details as they come available."
State Rep. Lisa Subeck, D-Madison, said a few weeks ago, a Walmart representative called her to tell her the Sam's Club in her district would be closing.
"My first question was: What will happen to the employees? My second question was: What are you doing to do with that building?" Subeck said.
Johnson said if Walmart does donate the building, the Boys & Girls Club could hire back some of the 129 people who lost their jobs when Sam's Club closed its doors for good.
Members from several local sports clubs also spoke at Monday's press conference, saying a sports complex like the one Johnson is proposing would fill a need in the community because they can't find spaces to rent where their teams can practice.
"I contacted over 15 health clubs and churches trying to find available space, and it's very very difficult with the number of requests that come in," said Kristin Ruprecht, administrator of Magic Soccer Club.
Johnson said he has been talking to Walmart officials about the proposal, and he will travel to the store's headquarters in Arkansas if that's what it takes to see it through.
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