By Joe Bachman
WISCONSIN RAPIDS — “It’s time; let’s get it done.”
Words from an enthusiastic Mayor Zach Vruwink regarding the future of Wisconsin Rapids aquatics unveiled on Thursday night in front of a sizable crowd. Proposed aquatics designs from MSA Professional Services were presented to the crowd on hand, which included different scenarios, options, and time-frames.
According to MSA, the future of aquatics is boiled down to one formula: Existing Witter Field complex + new park + regional aquatics center = success for Wisconsin Rapids.
“We think about character, and what is uniquely Wisconsin Rapids,” said Project Architect Carter Arndt. “We’ve brainstormed and designed things that are unique to the community — there’s a rich history of natural significance and beauty.”
MSA’s vision of aquatics consists of a regional facility with self-sustaining revenue with a focus on a “vibrant aquatic experience”. The master plan of the park includes recreational activities , swimming lessons, and fitness.
Master Plan Features and Amenities
-Three small flag football fields with one larger one.
-Skate park (will remain in the same location)
-Ribbon shaped ice rink for skating
-Optional tennis courts
-Additional 91 parking spaces (402 total)
-Shade shelters for parties
-Lighted geyser pad
The aquatics portion will contain three separate bodies totaling over 12,000 square feet of water. The 2,333 square foot activity pool will have a one meter diving board, swimming lanes, a climbing wall, and an optional wibbit course.
The 7,666 square foot leisure pool will have an active area that will include a water walk, basketball hoops, an action channel, a lazy river, and tube slide with an accessible plunge area. There is an optional future body slide that could be built next to the tube slide.
The 2,553 square foot tot pool will feature a zero depth entry, play features, a tot river, and slides. All three pools will be surrounded by rentable shade structures for parties and events.
What will it cost?
While the initial cost was estimated at around $8.5 million, MSA now estimates that the total cost will be closer to $11 million dollars, with future improvements totaling another $1 million. However, according to Mayor Vruwink, the cost is no reason for residents to get deterred.
“This community has had the ‘if’ question for so long — the youth talked about it, my generation talked about it — the reality is people want this to happen,” said Vruwink. “It’s a matter of if the community will rally and make it happen in a period of time that will be able to be realized by our youth.”
Last year, city officials approved investing $5.5 million dollars into such an aquatics facility with the rest of the cost made up through public and private donations. The original amount will ensure that an aquatics facility will get built in some form, however, the rest will be up to the community.
The Mayor’s Youth Council is optimistic that this goal can and will be reached, and pledged to raised $250,000 of their own.
“When I was in 5th grade I remember my teacher told me that they were planning to build a water park one time in Rapids and they never opened — and my entire class was devastated,” said Lincoln High School student Ryann Swanson. “I’m glad to say that I’m here now advocating for an aquatics center that I wanted when I was 11-years-old.”
With different variables at play with levels of fundraising, this leaves multiple options on the table for the specificity of the facility. Evaluation of current funding will take place in 6-8 weeks to ultimately decide whether to move forward with construction this year, or spring of 2018. The city will need approximately $5.5 million dollars in donations or pledges in that time frame.
“Now that the designs are out there we plan to aggressively have some discussion with potential donors and community supporters to make this happen,” said Vruwink.
Also on the table is the option for surrounding communities to contribute financially, as areas such as Stevens Point, Nekoosa, Rudolph and others could likely use the Wisconsin Rapids aquatics facility.
“We’re stronger together,” said Vruwink. “I’m hopeful and optimistic that residents in the communities will want their municipalities to contribute, and by the municipality participating it will be less expensive for those residents who live outside the city.”
Construction will start either in Sept. 2017 with a July 2018 opening, or a May 2018 construction start with a June 2019 opening.
Either way, even if literally no money is raised, there will be an aquatics facility in Wisconsin Rapids within the next two years. According to the Mayor, a sort of ‘plan C’ will simply be a city-level aquatics center over that of a regional in that case.
“It’s not a matter of if, but when.”