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Gymnastics Club ready to break ground

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The River Falls Gymnastics Club has come a long way in 30 years.

What started as a program with around 100 kids at the Old Ames Education Center at UW-River Falls in 1979 has grown to a volunteer, board-driven non-profit serving over 1,000 gymnasts annually.

Now, after operating out of at least five different locations since 2001, the club is looking forward to finally moving into a building it can call its own.

RFGC vice president Julie Bruns said the club has set a July 10 groundbreaking for its $1.3 million dollar facility with a projected January 2019 opening.

"We're very excited," Bruns said. "A lot of people have worked very hard to see this through."

Bruns said the new facility will be a reflection of the RFGC motto: "Together we build strong kids and strong community."

Club teams have competed in the Midwest Amatuer Gymnastics Association for the last 25-plus years. It feeds a River Falls High School Wildcat team that has qualified for the WIAA State Tournament 17-straight years and earned six state championships. In 2017, the club had its first member participate in the Minnesota Special Olympics. All with the help of 30-plus coaches and staff and a dedicated Board of Directors which currently includes president Kaci Nowicki, vice president Bruns, secretary Ann Pierce, treasurer and head coach Debbie Tradewell, director Stephanie Larson and assistant director Emily Page.

In 2007, the RFGC purchased a parcel of land adjacent to the east parking lot at River Falls High School. Since then, financial planning, building design, fundraising and program development has made building the new facility a reality.

"Five years ago we met with a financial planner and said, this is what we want to do; how do we make it happen? They said, this is where you need to be, and now we've hit those numbers and the lot has been paid off for awhile," Bruns said.

After the Ames building on campus was demolished to make way for the University Center, the RFGC operated out of a small space at Meyer Middle School before beginning a preschool program in the basement of Zany Janeys on Main Street. It then used the back half of Jackelen Auto Body on the north side of town until most recently using space at the old Halverson Concrete building on the south side.

The new facility will include in-ground pits, in-ground trampolines, decicated preschool space and several sets of competitive equipment. It will be home to the club's pre-school program, recreational, adaptive and competitive gymnastics, camps, clinics, open gyms and dance classes, as well as the River Falls High School team for practice during its WIAA season.

"We consulted with Olympic gymnasts about the design," Bruns said. "We wanted to make sure we do it right."

In announcing the groundbreaking and opening, Bruns said the club is striving to reach a final goal of $150,000 through a capital campaign. People can help in a number of ways ranging from purchasing naming rights to the building and sponsoring picnic tables, benches or the multi-purpose room, to corporate and individual pledges. A donation of $100 or more will get your name on a donor wall inside the facility.

For more information about the RFGC and to make a donation go to www.riverfallsgymnastics.com

Bob Burrows

Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.

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