WAITE PARK – Members of the American Legion Silver Star Post 428 in Waite Park are getting ready to say goodbye to their headquarters of over six decades.

The Legion has decided to sell the aging building, located at 17 2nd Avenue North, in order to cut expenses. The Waite Park Planning Commission Tuesday will review the application for a conditional use permit to demolish the existing building and develop a car wash on the property. City staff is recommending approval of the permit.

“We just had more expenses than we had income,” said Post Commander Dennis Schiffler. “Our real estate taxes were a big factor – they’re over $60,000 a year. That’s over a $1,000 a week in taxes.”

The decision to sell the building doesn’t reflect a dwindling membership; Schiffler says the Legion boasts 650 members, along with a 200-member Ladies Auxiliary and an active Sons of the American Legion program.

“People think, ‘oh, you’re losing your members,’ but that’s really not a factor,” Schiffler explained. “Basically, we’ve got a thousand members that belong to the organization, and we’ll continue with the Legion goals, just like we always have.”

Schiffler says expenses associated with the building have been hard on the Legion’s budget in recent years.

“Sports organizations used to come to our meetings to ask for money, and we’d write them a check for $5,000 on the same night,” he recalled. “But that was then, and things have changed over the years. We’re going to continue operations they way we always have, just in a different building.”

Schiffler says Legion members will soon be sharing space with the Loyal Order of Moose, located just down the street at 1300 3rd Avenue North.

“They’ve invited us down to use the Lodge for meetings,” he said. “They’re going to let us store our rifles and flag equipment down there. We’re going to continue on with our legion programs, just like we always have.”

Schiffler says, above all, the Legion's goal is to remain active throughout central Minnesota.

“We have our rifle squad at three or four funerals a month,” he said. “We also serve at the state cemetery up in Little Falls, doing military rites. You’ll continue to see us in area parades, carrying the colors. We’re going to carry on – just in a different building.”

There’s no set timeline on how long the Legion will be sharing space with the Moose; Schiffler says it depends on when they find the right facility to fit their current and future needs.

“There are several options,” Schiffler said. “We could build across the street from where we’re at now, on existing property we own. But, at this point, we’re going to sell the building and bank the proceeds. We’re going to stay for as long as the Moose will let us meet down there, and things will be brought up later when we want to make a change.”

While selling the building was necessary, Schiffler says it was a “big disappointment” for members.

“Nobody wanted to give up that building because there’s so much history there,” he said. “Hundreds of steak and fish fries, corn feeds, and we were involved in the community. It’s been a very active building over the years. Waite Park has used it for a lot of community things. We’re not blaming it on COVID. Things were happening before that. It’s an aging building with expenses above what we were able to handle.”

“Nobody wanted the building to go away, of course,” he added. “But we just weren’t able to continue going the way we were.”

The Waite Park American Legion was built in 1955.