Aquatics Center Update: Construction Goal to Remain on Schedule
By Joe Bachman
Mayor seeks to start capital campaign committee to boost fundraising efforts.
WISCONSIN RAPIDS — A special meeting was called to order on Wednesday night to update progress on the coming regional aquatics center.
City leaders recently visited Erb Swimming Pool in Appleton, which was designed by MSA Professional Services, the same firm that will be heading design for Wisconsin Rapids. The purpose of the visit is to gain vision of what an aquatics center in the area could look like, and officials were paying close attention.
“I maintained an eye on some of the design, as well as focus on certain operations,” said Public Works Director Joe Terry. “…as well as how they were staffing their facility, and the ease of maintenance, as well as the deck layout and general aesthetics.”
Like Rapids and Witter Field, Erb pool in Appleton built the aquatics facility in the same area as a park.
“I think the Appleton facility, where they bring aquatics into a park — which we’re looking at doing, makes it much more useful and multi-purpose,” said Alderperson Todd Ferkey. “You had after hours lighting, and you could rent out the facility after pool hours — those are real attractive points that we hope to incorporate.”
Aquatics Center Community Partnership
Officials are looking into the idea of reaching out to nearby outside municipalities for additional funding, as areas such as Port Edwards, Nekoosa, and even Stevens Point could see residents flocking to use the facility when finished.
“We’re putting up $5 million of our own borrowing capacity, and financing it that way; we want to find a way to be equitable and find a fair option for city taxpayers, as well as non-city taxpayers,” said Mayor Zach Vruwink.
While these figures are not official, Finance Director Tim Desorcy calculated a contribution rate of $268 per capita, or per resident. City officials do not expect surrounding municipalities to contribute the entire amount equal to their population, but are hopeful that future contributions that will make up a portion of the $5 million dollar goal needed for completion.
As it stands, the approximated cost of the facility will be around $10 million dollars, ($12 million with additional features, such as new tennis courts) with $5 million of that coming from the city. The rest will be raised through philanthropic and private funding, as well as reaching out to other areas whose residents may use the facility. Fundraising presentations have been made to other corporations and businesses, and the city seeks to do the same for all surrounding areas, seemingly within a 20-mile radius.
As of now, the timeline remains unchanged. According to Mayor Vruwink, to avoid additional costs of re-design that would come with a scaling back from a regional aquatics center to a city facility, the schedule of the project needs to stay on track. All members were in concurrence of the importance of staying on schedule, especially given the economic impact of non-city residents not only using the area for aquatics, but likely putting money into other local businesses while they’re in town.
“If we kick this back any further, we lose out on all the economic revenue that we could get by people coming into the airport to go down to Sand Valley,” said Alderperson Steve Koth. “They go down to Sand Valley to play golf, and maybe some of these people bring their families too, and we want to give them a reason to stay in Wisconsin Rapids.”
The unofficial timeline stands as follows: — by the end of this month, construction documents will be sent to MSA, with the official bidding to take place in January of 2018. Construction will begin in spring of 2018, with an opening date of summer 2019.
Capital Campaign Committee
According to the Mayor, while the city has raised $12,000 from local public events, there is a noticeable interest coming from both residents and non-residents alike. Vruwink will soon start a special committee that will look to capitalize on the fundraising efforts of the city and hone in on potential opportunities.
“Ultimately, I believe we should assemble a capital campaign committee, and we should do that tomorrow,” said Vruwink. “There’s a list of people that we’ve identified that would maybe want to play a role.”
The committee would assist in donor presentations and public relations events.