Mitchell golf and fitness center sees rapid growth in recent years
For its first 70-plus years, not much changed at Mitchell, S.D.’s nine-hole golf course. But over the past two decades, the course – built in 1929 – has grown exponentially.
The Wild Oak Gold Course has added nine additional holes, making it a full 18-hole, 6,902-yard golf course; a housing development has sprung up around the course; and last year, Wild Oak partnered with the GreatLIFE Golf & Fitness Club chain to add components to the popular business.
And, says Dave Backlund Jr., general manager at GreatLIFE Wild Oak, more growth is on the way as the facility looks for additional fitness center space.
GreatLIFE Wild Oak currently partners with Mitchell’s Dakota Wesleyan University, whose 80,000-square-foot athletic center leases space to the golf and fitness center.
“Dakota Wesleyan has a huge indoor track and basketball courts that they allow our members to use as well,” Backlund said. “And during the week, we use our banquet hall to run about 32 fitness classes, so we’re looking to expand.”
GreatLIFE Wild Oak is open to the public as well as to club memberships, which has grown to about 3,000 members, Backlund said. That’s up from about 450 just two years ago.
Wild Oak’s partnership with GreatLIFE Golf & Fitness – a chain of 45 golf and fitness centers in the Midwest – began in 2016. The owners are Dave Backlund Sr., and Tom Walsh, CEO of the GreatLIFE Golf & Fitness Club franchise.
“We started putting our memberships together last year,” Backlund Jr. said. “If you get a golf membership, the fitness is included, so you’re technically a golf and fitness member when you join as a golf member. We also have separate fitness memberships for fitness only.”
Connecting with the Mitchell community
With Dakota Wesleyan University next door (48 percent of its student body participates in athletics), and with the newly expanded GreatLIFE Wild Oak golf and fitness center, Backlund Jr. said there is a special focus on athletics and fitness in the community.
“There is a big emphasis on and support for youth when it comes to school athletics, as well as with the private clubs that go on,” he said. “There’s swimming and soccer and hockey, just to name a few.
“Mitchell’s really stepped up to address those needs, and really listened to input from the community, so we strive on getting those things done. When I was a kid, we played ice hockey, but we had to go to Huron (S.D.) to do it. Now we have two sheets of ice in town, and they’re both covered, so they carry that into the summertime.”
The Mitchell school system also has an impressive baseball and softball complex, which allows the city of about 16,000 to host tournaments, including the annual state baseball tournament.
“We have one of the best facilities in the state to host that event,” Backlund said.
Opening soon in Mitchell is a new $8 million indoor aquatic center, which is being constructed now.
“All of this growth keeps the city alive, keeps people moving, and keeps events coming here and keeps us moving forward, which is refreshing to see,” Backlund said.
New partnerships all around
When the Bucklands chose to become a franchisee partner with GreatLIFE Golf and Fitness, they also took on a new banking partner with First National Bank.
“First National has been very easy to get along with – I mean, you just start talking with them about ideas, and brainstorming ideas, and they listen and want to know right away how they can help us accomplish our goals, and how we can make this work. They’re just very open minded and so easy to get along with,” Backlund said.
“If we need anything, if we get in a pinch, and we need this or that – whatever – they’re just a phone call away. Everybody there is so approachable. When we need to sit down and talk they respond with, ‘Hey, let’s go sit down and have lunch.’ It’s not like we’ve got to set up something a month in advance to try to get on their calendar. Really, they’ve been right behind us every step of the way.”