By Joe Bachman
Indoor or outdoor? The city will have little time to decide the future of a new aquatics facility in Wisconsin Rapids as both scenarios were presented Tuesday night.
The first option presented is an indoor facility built by the YMCA.
“It’s about creating a center that will look to improve the health and well-being of children, adults and families,” said South Wood County YMCA CEO Brett Salscheider. “This will be a place for individuals to get connected and feel a sense of belonging — an opportunity to further our community outreach.”
The proposed aquatics center will have a water space of 7,580 square-feet with a 335 person capacity. Unlike an outdoor pool, this facility would be accessible year-around with an estimated 2,500 hours of time open to the public.
The indoor facility would feature a water slide, lazy river, a climbing structure similar to a rock wall, six lap lanes, a whirlpool, multiple diving boards, inflatable toys for kids, as well as two separate pools with controlled temperatures. There are two proposed locations for this facility — one being the current location of the YMCA at 1421 Pepper Ave., the second on Highway 54 next to Aspirus Clinic.
The center will have an estimated 50 years of life and will charge $2 per visit, as well as optional swimming lessons for members at a cost of $26. According to Salscheider, there will be no burden on the taxpayer for annual operation costs of the facility, which is estimated at approximately $352,000 a year.
“Think about the collaborative things that are trying to happen in this community right now — it only makes sense to say ‘why don’t we work together’ and figure out a way to save some dollars,” said YMCA CEO Todd Duellman. “Better yet, not even just save dollars, but come home with something better — something that will potentially give you more time and more feasibility, and more use.”
The all-important cost will require an initial $5 million investment from the city, which will be taken from city bonds and paid over a 20 year span. According to Mayor Zach Vruwink, this breaks down to a $33.80 cost to the taxpayer per year in a $100,000 home.
There is also a smaller version of the YMCA proposal that will only cost the city $2 million upfront, but holds approximately half the capacity and only 200 hours of access year-round. The focus of the presentation was set on the larger facility with an emphasis that hosting swim meets and other community events could be held to generate revenue for the city. The expected date of completion with this option is summer of 2018.
The second option presented was an outdoor pool, built by Burbach Aquatics. Conceptual designs place a potential outdoor pool by Witter Field or Mead School, and ranges anywhere from 6,076 to 14,584 square-feet.
Like the YMCA, the designs would feature a lazy river, water-slides, inflatable toys, a shaded area, diving boards, a bathhouse and an added splash pad which would require additional, but budgeted city funds to operate. Five separate versions were presented at different locations and costs which range from $4,668,000 to $8,403,000 that the city would have to invest upfront. Capacity ranges from 512 to 737 depending on the design.
The Platteville based firm has been in business for 30 years and has a zero failure rate on its pools.
“An outdoor swimming pool you’ve got eight to 12 weeks of use in the summer, and primarily what you want to do in the summer is swim and play,” said Burbach consultant Josh Layer. “We wanted to make sure that we hit on the recreation part, and the main goal of the project is to have family orientated recreation facility.”
Construction on an outdoor pool would be completely by June of 2018.
“I think this is a perfect opportunity and the timing is right without a municipal pool or a place for our residents to enjoy their access to aquatics,” said Mayor Zach Vruwink. “This is an opportunity for us to lead and scrutinize the options adequately, and also make a decision to certainly have a facility open to the public in the future.”
So what did the residents of Wisconsin Rapids think? In the perfect scenario both options are desired.
“I like both proposals, however I think there should be two — they should combine them,” said resident Joe Hintz. “There should be an outdoor and an indoor, just because access to the Y facility would be difficult for kids and other individuals on the west-side.”
When asked, as a taxpayer, if he would endure the potential extra cost of two facilities the response was “definitely”.
“I think it needs to be in the heart of Wisconsin Rapids, downtown,” said resident Katrina Hittner. “I would love to have both [options] — I just think it’d be great to have it.”
There will be a special city council meeting held on Aug. 18 where the future of Wisconsin Rapids aquatics will be discussed further.
Residents can send their opinions on the matter to email@example.com.