Minnetonka reaches tentative agreement to buy the Marsh wellness center from the YMCA

The city of Minnetonka is planning to buy the Marsh, the longtime wellness center that the YMCA of the North closed last week.

The Minnetonka City Council announced this week that it had reached a tentative purchase agreement with the Y. The purchase price wasn’t disclosed Wednesday, but the council is expected to release details soon and vote on the agreement Monday.

The Marsh property, Mayor Brad Wiersum said in a statement, is a “public asset and a vital part of our city.”

It wasn’t yet clear whether the city will be a temporary or permanent owner of the site, whether the Marsh will reopen and operate as it has for nearly 40 years, or whether housing or other plans could be proposed for the site. City spokesman Andrew Wittenborg said city staffers are collecting community feedback and will outline next steps after the purchase is finalized by the council and the Y’s board.

Wittenborg added that the city has already received more than 300 comments on a survey about the Marsh at MinnetonkaMatters.com.

If the purchase wins approval, the Marsh would become the second fitness center owned by the city, following the Williston Fitness Center about a half-mile away. After the Y announced in October it was closing the Marsh on Dec. 31, the City Council met twice in closed-door sessions to develop an offer to purchase the building.

“This property sits at the heart of our community and is historically, culturally and environmentally significant,” Minnetonka City Manager Mike Funk said in a statement. “The availability of this land represents a rare and unique opportunity to ensure public access well into the future, whether the city becomes the long-term owner or a temporary steward of the Marsh.”

The Marsh opened in 1985 on nearly 7 acres alongside marshland by Minnehaha Creek, off Minnetonka Boulevard and west of Interstate 494. It was developed by Deephaven philanthropist Ruth Stricker and her husband, Bruce Dayton, the late retail executive who built Target Corp., and father of former Gov. Mark Dayton. The couple blended Eastern and Western practices at the center, which has a restaurant, therapeutic pool, spa, physical therapy and fitness center. When Stricker died in 2020, her family donated the Marsh to the Y.

After Marsh membership had dropped in half since 2019 during the COVID-19 pandemic, Y officials said this fall that the center was no longer financially viable. Y officials said proceeds from the sale will be invested in well-being initiatives to honor Stricker’s legacy.

YMCA CEO Glen Gunderson said in a statement this week that the Twin Cities nonprofit sought to “find a community partner committed to maintain the integrity of the facility and property, and to honor Ruth’s legacy.”

John Freivalds of Orono, a longtime Marsh member, said he hopes the city is able to reopen the center and continue its long legacy as a one-of-kind wellness destination.

“There are tons of ideas,” he said. “I’m hopeful. It was saved from the bulldozer.”