Community center planned in Hortonville
By John Faucher
The Hortonville American Legion has launched an ambitious $1.8 million fundraising campaign to build a new headquarters and community center on the village’s East side.
Hammond-Schmit Post 55’s new base of operations and community center will be located along East Main Street on a 3-acre parcel between Otter Creek Dental and Schmidt’s Auto, south of State Highway 15.
The proposed building and site plan includes a 60×100’ foot commercial 300-person capacity venue with 115 parking stalls.
Paul Wait, a Sons of American Legion member and Post 55 fundraising volunteer, said plans for the project began in 2021, when the Legion’s current meeting space at the Opera House was leased to a church.
The church has accommodated the Legion with a shared space in the basement since 2021.
“It’s a very cooperative relationship we have with the church and we’re thankful they continue to let us use it, but it’s not like having your own place,” said Post Commander Bob Ziegert.
The Legion Post and Auxiliary has over 240 members.
“We began looking at options for building a meeting place in 2021,” said Ziegert.
They formed a building committee.
Their vision: “To build a welcome gathering place for community events, meetings, programs and activities that enrich the lives of veterans, families and all citizens of Hortonville and the Fox Valley.”
“It’s not something we just started in the last six months, it’s been a long time coming,” Ziegert said.
They purchased the 3-acre parcel in September 2022.
“We’ve gotten very positive remarks from the people that we’ve talked to in the Hortonville community and the surrounding communities,” said Ziegert.
American Legion Post 55 will own and operate the facility, but he said its use will extend to all citizens of Hortonville and the Fox Valley region.
“This is something that is really needed in the Hortonville area, and we feel very positive that we can provide this kind of building to service the area,” said Ziegert.
“We want the community involved with this because it’s for their use, it’s not just for the American Legion use,” he said.
On June 17, members of the Hortonville Boy Scout Troop 36 helped clear brush and conduct site work alongside Legion members.
The Legion Post has a history of partnering with community organizations like the Boy Scouts, the Lions Club and other civic groups.
Zeigert said once the community center is built, its doors will be open to any community organization that needs a place to meet.
The venue will also be open for functions such as weddings, funerals, graduation parties and other celebrations.
“The goal is not to compete with restaurants and bars, we’re not looking to start a food service,” said Wait.
“There are a lot of veterans that will have a role in operating the center, and the vision is to serve the entire community,” Wait said.
Ziegert said the center would offer programming for veterans.
“We want a place for fellow veterans to gather, feel safe and have open conversations with one another,” said Ziegert.
At this time in Wisconsin, Post 55 is the only American Legion Post planning for new construction.
In 2016, American Legion Post 306 in Green Lake successfully raised $1.2 million to build a new hall and community center.
Members of Post 55 visited Green Lake for a tour in February.
About a dozen members of Post 306 sat down with members of Hortonville’s building committee to share ideas and answer questions.
“We were very impressed with the tour and it was really helpful to sit down and learn from them,” said Ziegert.
“You always feel welcome when you go to a Legion House.”
Post 55 recently sent letters to all the Legion Posts in the State informing them of its building plans.
“We’re just at the very start of our fundraising activity. You’re going to see more of it,” said Ziegert.
The group is planning to host some kick-off information events in July starting with an open house and meet and greet at Wolf River Community Bank.
“Our two-year campaign goal is $1.8 million dollars,” said Wait. “We hope to see a building open by 2025.”
The group will be calling on friends in the business community, individuals, corporations and organizations in the greater Fox Valley region.
“We just want to get the word out and let everybody know that this is something we’re going to do,” said Ziegert.
“There’s not a question of if, what so ever,” he said. “It’s going to happen.”
To learn more visit Hortonvillelegion.org or contact [email protected]