Mayo Clinic Health System has bought nearly 200 acres of land in Onalaska but said it does not have immediate plans for the property, other than hinting at additional Mayo services in the region.
The Rochester, Minn.-based health care giant paid $8.32 million for the 187.4 acres along Hwy. 35 and Sand Lake Road, according to land records filed Tuesday.
“Our organization is dynamic and growing, the health care environment is changing rapidly, and we are seeking ways that we can work differently, provide care differently and broaden access to health care for everyone in the area,” Mayo said in a written statement Thursday.
The property, across Sand Lake Road from Menards, includes about 80 build-able acres, with the rest being wooded bluffland, said Peter Hughes, Mayo's regional vice president for business development and marketing in southwest Wisconsin.
“At this juncture, we do not have firm plans” for the property, Hughes said in an interview. “That’s what we will endeavor to do with Mayo leadership in Rochester and Mayo leadership in southwest Wisconsin.”
Onalaska Mayor Joe Chilsen confirmed that he is aware of Mayo’s purchase but said he is not at liberty to say more. There is nothing on the city's agenda pertaining to the land, Chilsen said.
"We’re waiting for Mayo to tell us what they’re going to do with that piece," he said.
The hospital statement said, “We will evaluate how we can create new, innovative models of care to meet the needs of our communities and bring more Mayo Clinic care to the region.”
Asked whether the property might be used for a new hospital, clinic or nursing home, Hughes said, “We will look at what would be appropriate for the land for future health care needs.”
Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare has no plans to abandon its main campus, spokesman Rick Thiesse said.
“We are fully committed to the city of La Crosse,” he said. “Especially for our patients here.”
Between 2009 and 2013, Mayo-Franciscan Healthcare invested more than $63 million in capital projects.
It operates a hospital and a clinic on its La Crosse campus, as well as the $28.4 million Center for Advanced Medicine and Surgery, which was completed in 2004. A $9 million emergency room addition opened there in 2008.
In 2006, Mayo opened a $16 million, 100,000-square-foot clinic on Theater Road in Onalaska, about 2.5 miles from the newly purchased land. It also has smaller clinic in Holmen, about four miles north of the Sand Lake property.
Mayo has been in the market for land for about three years, Hughes said.
“With a limited number of suitable sites, we wanted to make sure to keep our options open and make sure for the future we would have land available to provide health care in the region,” he said.
The purchase comes just two weeks after Gundersen Health System opened a new $180 million hospital wing as part of an ongoing renewal of its La Crosse campus.
Hughes deflected questions about whether Mayo’s purchase is related, saying, “This land is for the future of our organization.”
Gundersen officials declined to comment on Mayo’s land purchase.
Mayo-Franciscan’s history goes back to 1883, when the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration founded St. Francis Hospital as the first hospital in southwest Wisconsin.
In 1995, the Franciscan Health System, Skemp Clinic and Mayo joined to become Franciscan Skemp Healthcare-Mayo Clinic Health System. It changed its name to Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare in 2011.
The FSPAs welcomed the land purchase.
“This is the beginning of an exciting process for Mayo in the Midwest,” said Sister Eileen Lang, FSPA vice president who works with institutions the order sponsors.
The FSPAs and Mayo-Franciscan “are in dialogue about future plans for the organization’s growth,” Lang said. “We intend to work as closely as possible with both Mayo-Franciscan and Mayo Clinic Rochester now that the purchase is made and plans begin taking shape.”
The Mayo system has hospitals and clinics in 70 communities in southwest Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa, including Sparta, Tomah, Arcadia, Prairie du Chien, La Crescent and Caledonia, Minn., and Waukon, Iowa.
Mayo-Franciscan operates assisted and independent living facilities in central La Crosse and in Lansing, Iowa. The group formerly ran a nursing home in Arcadia that was turned over last year to Benedictine Health System, which recently announced it will close the facility by April 14.