An on-site repair shop, access for people with disabilities and warm restrooms: Those are some of the features the Wayzata Community Sailing Center’s new headquarters will offer when it opens in 2019.
It may sound pretty basic, but the 4,000-square-foot building will seem luxurious compared to the uninsulated 127-year-old cottage that has housed Minnesota’s only accredited sailing school until now.
The nonprofit organization on Lake Minnetonka offers lessons, races, summer camps, adaptive sailing and educational programs to about 1,300 kids and adults annually.
“We sail from ice off the lake to ice back on,” said Director Matthew Thompson. “Kids have been changing in unheated stalls, finishing with the rest of their gear outdoors and under a tent.”
The new Mike Plant Community Boathouse will be open year-round, allowing for events and programs throughout the winter and serving as many as 1,900 people each year, Thompson said.
The Sailing Center serves children as young as 5, including low-income kids who receive scholarships. In addition to sailing instructions, it offers educational programs on subjects that include environmental protection and lake water quality.
With just $800,000 left to raise of its $4.8 million fundraising goal, the new facility is already under construction. Plans call for pouring the slab this week, and Thompson said he hopes it will open by the end of May.
The first $2 million went to razing its old lakeside house and paying off the mortgage. The Sailing Center purchased the house in 2010, but found it needed too many repairs to be a practical place for its programs.
“It wasn’t in a condition where we could get it to a safe commercial house for kids,” Thompson said.
The remaining $2.8 million in donations will be used to construct a modest, energy-efficient and ADA-compliant building with classrooms, public assembly space and lockers.
On-site storage and maintenance areas make it no longer necessary for the center to outsource boat repairs. Landscaping will improve the property, which shares a parking lot with the Wayzata Yacht Club, where the center originated years ago.
Some older boats in the center’s fleet of more than 70 will be replaced. “We hope to turn them over in stages as that money comes in,” Thompson said.
Donations have averaged a few hundred dollars apiece. One man, who prefers to remain anonymous, contributed $1 million last year.
The new building is named for Mike Plant, an internationally known yachtsman who grew up in Deephaven and began sailing in Lake Minnetonka at the age of 9. He sailed solo around the world three times, setting a speed record.
In 1992, while preparing to embark on a fourth solo circumnavigation, his boat capsized in the Atlantic Ocean and Plant was lost at sea. He was 41.
The center initially considered naming the building after his mother, Mary Plant, a Wayzata resident and longtime volunteer at the center who has a scholarship fund for sailing students. She asked that the building, like her scholarship fund, carry her son’s name instead.
Thompson, who has been sailing at the center since he was 6, said Mary Plant had been involved there for as long as he could remember.
“Growing up, she was the one cooking lunch on the grill for the outreach programs … always on-site and doing whatever there was to do,” he said.