Far West Side Sam's Club building

Community leaders are asking Walmart, which owns the recently closed Sam's Club on Madison's Far West side, to donate the $6.6 million building so it can be converted into a job-training center and youth sports complex. 

AMBER ARNOLD, STATE JOURNAL

Madison community leaders are asking Walmart to donate its now-closed Sam’s Club building and help convert it into a job-training and youth sports complex.

On Monday, Boys & Girls Club of Dane County president and CEO Michael Johnson, other community leaders and some elected officials held a press conference to urge Walmart, which owns the vacant $6.6 million Sam’s Club building, to sign on to the plan.

Johnson said he’s had conversations with Walmart officials since first asking the company — which closed the Far West Side store last week — to donate the facility. He said he will discuss the plan during a video conference with company executives on Tuesday morning.

While Johnson said convincing Walmart to donate the building is a “long-shot,” he’s still optimistic.

“They could have outright just said no, so the fact that … they’re willing to have conversations with me is encouraging,” Johnson said.

Walmart said earlier this month that the Madison Sam’s Club, 7050 Watts Road, would be among 63 of the warehouse retail stores to close. The company has said it plans to convert some of the former Sam’s Clubs into e-commerce fulfillment facilities, but hasn’t yet said which those will be.

Laura Ladd Poff, a Sam’s Club spokeswoman, said the company is still undecided about what to do with the vacant building and that it has heard from Johnson about his proposal.

“We have heard from the Boys & Girls Club and are currently evaluating all of our options for the building,” she said. “We hope to know more soon and will definitely share the details as they (become) available.”

Johnson has also asked the company to provide a “lead investment” for the complex and to assign a Walmart space planner to work with volunteers to redesign the building.

He said it would take about $2 million to convert the building to a sports facility and about $1.5 million a year to operate.

State Rep. Lisa Subeck, D-Madison, said at Monday’s press conference that a complex like the one Johnson is proposing would be good for the area. She said there’s a lack of places for that area’s youth to gather and this would give them a positive place to be.

“I think it’s a great win-win opportunity,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for Walmart to partner with our community … and it would be a big win for our community.”

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Chris Aadland is a reporting intern for the Wisconsin State Journal.