Madison Sam's Club

The Boys & Girls Club of Dane County wants Walmart to donate the vacant Sam's Club in Madison so that the Club can convert it into a youth sports and job-training center.

BARRY ADAMS, STATE JOURNAL

Boys & Girls Club of Dane County president and CEO Michael Johnson said Tuesday that Gov. Scott Walker agreed to talk to Walmart officials on behalf of the Club's plan to convert a former Madison Sam's Club into a youth sports complex and job-training center.

Johnson said the governor approached him at a legislative breakfast in Milwaukee a couple of weeks ago and Johnson mentioned his work in recent weeks to convince the world's largest retailer to donate the building and other assistance for the proposed project, which he has described as a "long shot." The store closed Jan. 26 after 30 years.

A phone conference with Walker's deputy chief of staff Jack Jablonski followed on Feb. 1, Johnson said, during which Jablonski reportedly told him the governor was "very, very supportive of the idea" and would contact Walmart.

Jablonski did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday or Wednesday, but Walker press secretary Amy Hasenberg said in an email Wednesday: "After being contacted by Mr. Johnson, the governor’s staff reached out to Wal-Mart to discuss the issue. Wal-Mart said they would be following up with Mr. Johnson today."

The former Sam's Club is at 7050 Watts Road on the Far West Side.

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Chris Rickert is the urban affairs reporter and SOS columnist for the Wisconsin State Journal.