An architectural design firm has been hired to design plans for a new health care facility with up to $35 million in value on the former Mount Senario College athletic fields in Ladysmith.

Marshfield Medical Center-Ladysmith CEO Jeff Euclide called the hiring of Minneapolis architect HGA the next phase of the development process.

“We are going to start meeting with them in January so they get on site, and they get to know us and we get to know them,” Euclide said.”

The meeting will include physician leadership and key stakeholders, according to Euclide.

“It is to come up with a comprehensive plan that best meets the needs of the community. We continue to move forward and the next phase is to meet with an architectural design company,” Euclide said.

Hospital officials are currently studying an 11-acre city-owned property on Port Arthur Road, where athletic fields are now located just east of North Cedar Academy. The Ladysmith Common Council recently rezoned the property from R-3 multi-family residential zoning to C-1 commercial “or the appropriate zoning to build a health care facility.”

The site has yet to be purchased by Marshfield Clinic as due diligence research on the property continues.

“But we are moving ahead with the design as if it is going to be,” Euclide said. “We are entering the next phase of fulfilling the promise of building a new healthcare facility in Ladysmith.”

The Ladysmith Common Council acted last May to enter into an option with Marshfield Clinic Health Systems Hospitals to purchase the former Mount Senario College athletic fields. The option allowed Marshfield Clinic to perform “due diligence” exploration of the property, which is along the south side of Port Arthur Road, west of Wis. 27 and Walmart.

The Health System currently in Ladysmith has a clinic that offers walk-in care, family medicine and specialty care, a dental center and a physical therapy center. It currently employs between 170 and 180 people.

The Rusk County Board in August 2017 approved a Letter of Intent, and in February 2018 approved a Definitive Agreement that established terms to affiliate Rusk County Memorial Hospital and the Clinic at Riverside with Marshfield Clinic Health System. As part of the agreement, a new hospital will be built in Rusk County.

Marshfield Clinic has agreed to purchase land to construct a new hospital, medical office building and ambulatory and acute care service facility within the county.

The agreement authorizes Marshfield Clinic to invest not more than $35 million in the acquisition of land, construction and furnishing of the new hospital. The clinic will pay a minimum of $400,000 per year in lease payments to the county for rent of the current building.

The agreement to purchase RCMH came after months of active negotiations between the county and Marshfield Clinic Health System. A Letter of Intent with MCHS followed an in-depth study identifying future opportunities to grow and sustain a viable critical access hospital with local health care services.

Answering a request for proposals were Sacred Heart and MCHS. Marshfield Clinic was selected as the sole partner to move forward with a non-binding Letter of Intent.

A timeline for when the architectural plans will be made available to the public is not yet known.

Last May, Marshfield Clinic Health System and Gundersen Health System announced they were in discussions to potentially merge the organizations into one, fully-integrated health system to col-collectively enhance the level of care across Wisconsin, northeast Iowa and southeastern Minnesota. The two organizations spent several months studying details of a possible merger toward creating a health system led by more than 2,000 clinicians and with more than 18,000 total employees. Those talks ended with each remaining independent.