The Lake Area Improvement Corporation has been dedicated to the growth and prosperity of Madison and Lake County for almost 50 years. Through various projects, the LAIC works to provide the community with long-term benefits, and recent efforts are no different.
In January, the LAIC announced the purchase of a 67.6-acre plat on the west side of US-81, with the ultimate goal being to strategically use this land to facilitate the establishment of a daycare center.
The current plan to accomplish this is through a land swap involving a sparsely used tee-ball field at the intersection of Highland Ave. and W Center St. near the Madison Aquatic Center.
“Jameson [Berreth, Madison city administrator] and I are spearheading the park space because the field is a city-owned property, and we’re looking to acquire that property for the purpose of child care,” LAIC Executive Director Brooke Rollag said.
Rollag explained that a land swap is necessary because the field’s location is encumbered with federal dollars through the Land Water Conservation Fund. These funds were used in 2009 to resurface the tennis court that sits on the same 1.5-acre area. This means that to establish a daycare center on this property, the LAIC must provide a replacement property of equivalent value for the lost park land.
“What we’re working on is called a conversion of use,” Rollag said, adding that the LAIC has been working in close collaboration not only with the city but also with state and federal entities like the S.D. Game, Fish and Parks and the National Park Service to ensure project progress remains steady.
Rollag said that these collaborations, as well as the passion of all those involved, have been critical for the LAIC’s goal.
“We have great people in Madison, and we have great partners in the state. I can’t say enough about Game, Fish and Parks and their willingness to work with us,” she said.
“While we’re working on the land piece, we’re also working on the foundational pieces of what a childcare center looks like for Madison,” Rollag added. “We’re in the process of a feasibility study, and what that will help further identify is the true need.”
While Madison’s daycare shortage is apparent, there are still a variety of factors that need to be addressed, such as the age ranges of accepted children and the price of services.
Rollag said that the LAIC is committed to making the facility quality, affordable and accessible for the entire community.
The tee-ball field will be removed for the construction of the daycare facility, but the tennis court and adjacent basketball court will remain in place. Along with the close proximity of the Madison Aquatic Center, this means the location will have a number of amenities already in place, which will save the city additional construction costs.
Another primary focus for the facility is to develop a strong early childhood education program.
“The goal is to make foundational decisions that will have a long-term impact. We want to make sure that when we build it, we build it for sustainability,” Rollag said. “Going through the due diligence of the feasibility for the community is very important.”
While the process may be long and complex, Rollag believes that building a quality foundation is vital to the project’s future success. Along with the LAIC’s other collaborators, they receive assistance through the in-house childcare committee, a 10-person team including community members like Madison Elementary Principal Janel Guse.
“They’re very engaged and committed to the success of this center,” Rollag added. “I’m really thankful to have topnotch community members that want to see this mission fulfilled.”
Although there is still much to be accomplished, the LAIC is hard at work doing everything they can “to continue the move the boulder up the hill.” Aside from the feasibility study, the group is also conducting traffic studies and communicating with neighbors to enable the project to move as smoothly as possible.
“I want it to be a long-term success. I want it to be something that we can be proud of as a community, something that’s well-utilized and provides enrichment for youth for many years to come,” Rollag added.