City continues fight against drug abuse and distribution, Day Of Caring, Parks Department Prepares for Winter Season







Drug Task Force on the Front Line in Stemming Drug Abuse

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services’ (DHS) State Health Officer recently issued a Public Health Advisory that contained alarming information: In 2015 – for the second year in a row – more than 600 people in the State of Wisconsin died from opioid-related causes. These numbers capped a dramatic increase in our state’s opioid-related deaths, which tripled from 2003 to 2013, from 194 to 588. More people in Wisconsin die from drug overdose than from breast cancer, colon cancer, firearms, HIV, influenza, motor vehicle crashes or suicide.


Unfortunately, the City of Wisconsin Rapids and surrounding communities have not escaped the effects of this health crisis. Achieving measurable progress in combating the crisis requires work in a comprehensive way. In this update, I’d like to share one of the ways the City is acting – in the area of law enforcement.

The City Council and I prioritized the investment in our Police Department’s two dedicated detectives to follow up and develop leads on drug use in Wisconsin Rapids. Recently, the Legacy Foundation and City partnered to hire a third individual to join the detective bureau, through a hybrid patrol/drug detective position that, will perform investigative and treatment support.

13876470_1075472879155647_5309836456410249255_nThese detectives also represent our City as members of the Central Wisconsin Drug Task Force. This multi-county, multi-agency initiative has had a significant impact on drug arrests and the availability of illicit substances.

The Drug Task Force comprises the Wood, Waushara, Waupaca, Portage, Juneau, Marquette, Green Lake and Adams County sheriff’s departments; and the Wisconsin Rapids, Waupaca, Stevens Point, Marshfield, Grand Rapids and Berlin police departments. We are proud to be a participating municipality in this team effort.

Of course, as in so many circumstances involving the overall welfare of the entire community, “it takes a village.” If you have any information about illegal drug activity, you can help by calling the Wisconsin Rapids Police Department at 715-423-4444, or a detective at 715-421-6216.

You can also provide anonymous tips to Wood County Crime Stoppers by using the secure online form, sending a text message or calling 1-877-325-STOP (1-877-325-7867). Text your tip to 274637 and start your message with WCCS. You can remain anonymous and be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000. You may also call the Wisconsin Drug Hotline at 1-800-622-DRUG.

As a City, we are committed to continuing our fight against drug abuse and distribution. Taking a proactive approach to solving this problem is essential to protecting and nurturing the overall health and welfare of citizens in our community. In future updates, I will share other ways we are applying resources and effort to combat this serious health situation.

Share Your Spirit of Charity During Day of Caring

If you care, share … your time and spirit of giving, tomorrow Saturday, October 22. That is when United Way of Inner Wisconsin calls on community members to come together to provide needed services for its annual Day of Caring. Students, families, co-workers, church groups, service organizations and individuals are all welcome to rake a yard or two for our local elderly and disabled neighbors.

Do you need your yard raked?

  • If you are unable to physically rake your yard, and cannot afford to pay for the service, dial 2-1-1 to register.

    day-of-caringWe need groups of volunteers who care about the community to provide needed services to our local elderly and disabled neighbors! We are looking for:

    • STUDENTS:  Get a group of friends together to volunteer and have fun!
    • FAMILIES:  Parents – show your kids the value of volunteering… volunteer together as a family!
    • CO-WORKERS:  If your company is having a United Way campaign, this is a great way to incorporate volunteering!
    • INDIVIDUALS: We will pair you with other volunteers so you can make new friends!

The day starts at 8:00 a.m. with breakfast at the Grand Rapids Lion’s Club. You will then receive your assignment(s) as part of a group of four or five people per yard. Please provide your own transportation, rakes and gloves. Homeowners provide garbage bags. All volunteers receive a free t-shirt.

Show that you care: To sign up or for more information, call Day of Caring Coordinator Amy Fluno at 715-421-0390, or send an email to

Parks Department Prepares for Winter Season

“Winter is coming” … but that does not mean our Parks & Recreation Department staff get a break.

As temperatures in the area begin to dip below freezing, Parks and Recreation is working hard to winterize bathrooms and sprinkler systems throughout the city. To avoid the possibility of freezing water, bathrooms in local parks were closed October 14.

Parks & Recreation staff also has a full checklist of projects they have either completed or will complete in coming weeks, including:

  • Blowing out and winterizing all systems and adding antifreeze where necessary;
  • Winterizing and cleaning buildings;
  • Removing water meters;
  • Preparing heating systems for startup; and
  • Removing volleyball and tennis nets.

In addition, leaf pickup will take place October 17-21 and October 31-November 4; final mowing of green areas, within the next two weeks; brush pickup, October 24-28; and skate park shutdown by mid November.

Looking further ahead, parking lots will be graded for low-board hockey installation;

West Side Christmas decoration platforms will be installed and decorations inspected; and low-hanging tree branches on plow routes will be trimmed.

The City of Wisconsin Rapids is most fortunate to have this dedicated group of workers, who keep our public spaces attractive and accessible throughout the year.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


“Run with the Cops”, Join in Public Power Week Celebration at WWLC, “Dancing for a Cause”







Step Up and “Run with the Cops” on Behalf of Special Olympics

Tommorrow, the Wisconsin Rapids area can enjoy the fall color and temperatures with a fun recreational opportunity for ‘good’ – join Wisconsin Rapids police officers for the Run with the Cops 5K Run/Walk and Kids’ Run

Local law enforcement officers and Special Olympics Wisconsin host this event, with proceeds helping local athletes with intellectual disabilities train and compete in sports year-round. Activities begin at 5:30 p.m., outside the Centralia Center at 220 Third Avenue South.


Kids 12 years old and younger can participate in the half-mile run with McGruff the Crime Dog. Then, flashing police vehicle lights will illuminate the 5K adult run/walk route. Visitors also can try on SWAT gear, meet K9 officers and sit behind the wheel of a squad car

Last year, communities raised more than $65,000 for Special Olympics Wisconsin. You can sign up online and donate to a participant of your choice, or collect pledges from family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, businesses and more for your own run/walk. Cash and check donations also are accepted.

This year, I encourage our community’s runners and walkers of all ages and abilities to step up on behalf of this worthy cause.

  • 5:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. – On-site registration & packet pick-up
  • 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. – Law Enforcement Vehicle Display, a fun opportunity for kiddos! Try on SWAT gear, tour a police command center, police cars, meet the local K9s and more!
  • 6:30 p.m. – Kid’s Dash with the Cops and Ace the K9!
  • 7:30 p.m. – 5K Run/Walk

Join in Public Power Week Celebration at Water Works & Lighting Commission

screen-shot-2016-10-04-at-10-20-13-amI invite you to join us in celebrating Public Power Week this Thursday, from 3:00-7:00 p.m., at our Wisconsin Rapids Water Works & Lighting  (WWLC) facility at 221 16th Street South. Event highlights include gift certificate drawings, giveaways, bucket truck rides, tours of the water filter plant, and complimentary food and beverages.

Our WWLC celebration is part of an annual national observance to remind customers and stakeholders about the “hometown” advantages that community-owned public power electric utilities offer. WWLC is one of about 2,000 such utilities across the country, which serve 48 million Americans. WWLC holds down household and business costs with its not-for-profit rates, and then puts much of its revenue right back into the community in support of utility infrastructure reinvestment, local programs and services, such as investments in renewable energy projects.

When it comes to service, WWLC has a proven track record of keeping the power on and/or restoring it as soon as possible.

WWLC also contributes to the economic vitality of our community by providing jobs, purchasing locally, and contributing payments to our City coffers.

I hope you’ll take advantage of this opportunity to celebrate and express appreciation for everything that public power does for us.

Put Your Best Foot Forward – Support “Dancing for a Cause”

Our community is fortunate to have a strong base of charitable and service organizations that nurture our culture of compassion and concern. One such organization, Wisconsin Rapids Sunrise Rotary Club, currently is building upon that tradition in a unique fashion, with its “Dancing for a Cause” campaign.

screen-shot-2016-10-05-at-2-38-03-pmThrough next Friday, October 14, you can go out and vote for dancing teams putting on performances online to raise money for community causes, and for Sunrise Rotary programs and services.

The campaign culminates at the “Dancing for a Cause” Dinner/Dance event being held on Friday, October 14, beginning at 5:30 p.m., at the Hotel Mead. Guests can enjoy a cash bar, Little Italy buffet, raffles, dancing to the Downtowners Band (Fond du Lac} and continued voting for the winning dance team. Cost is $50 per person.

Funds raised will go directly to charities selected by the dance teams, with a share of net proceeds to support Rotary projects and new initiatives.

Wisconsin Rapids Sunrise and Noon Rotary Clubs place special emphasis on youth, with funds used for charitable programs within the community, youth exchange programs and similar projects. They are part of a world fellowship of business and professional persons united by the motto, “Service Above Self.”

Tickets for the “Dancing for a Cause” Dinner/Dance are available online, and from any Sunrise Rotary member. Purchase by Friday, October 7th!  Either (or both!) ways, contributing is an excellent way to thank them for their time, talent and energy on behalf of great community causes.

For more information, contact:

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Enjoy the National Public Lands Day, Early Voting Underway, Crossing Guards wanted



Early Voting for the November Election Under Way

This past Monday, Wisconsin Rapids had the distinct honor of being among the first in the nation to open early voting (in-person) for the upcoming historic 2016 Fall election. I was proud to join over a dozen other residents to cast an early-morning ballot.


Filling out my in-person absentee application

Eligible residents can cast their ballots at City Hall, 444 West Grand Avenue, Monday through Friday, between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. You can also register to vote at the City Clerk’s office at City Hall if you are not yet on the voter rolls, or have changed your address or name.

Please keep in mind that if you intend to vote, you must have a photo ID. Deadline for early voting is Friday, November 4, four days before the November 8 Election Day.

If you can, take advantage of this convenient opportunity to make your voice heard, by exercising your precious right to choose your elected representatives. Don’t risk Long lines or Election Day obligations that may keep you from voting!

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-10-52-28-amAt left:  City Clerk Paul Przybelski explains the voting process for the 2016 fall election in this short video or click, here.


National Public Lands Day an Invitation to “Kick Back” and “Give Back”

IMG_0585Did you know that more than 30 percent of America’s land is public land? From neighborhood parks or beaches such as Veterans Memorial Park and Lake Wazeecha, to awe-inspiring national parks, public lands are the places where we can play, exercise, learn and relax. Now, all of us who enjoy these public spaces have a chance to both “kick back,” and “give back.”

The 23rd annual National Environmental Education Foundation National Public Lands Day, on Saturday, September 24, is the nation’s largest, single-day effort to connect people to public lands, inspire environmental stewardship, and encourage use of public lands for education, recreation and general health.

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-10-26-06-amAs a special incentive, this Saturday is a fee-free day for all federal public lands and many state parks.

You can invite family, friends, students or coworkers to spend the day outdoors, helping to keep our public lands free of litter and invasive species; take in some outdoor recreation; or simply learn more about plants and wildlife.

Get out on Saturday to enjoy the great outdoors and celebrate the lands that give us so much.

Wanted: People to Keep Our Kids Safe – Hiring Now for Crossing Guards

If you have an interest in staying active and want to help young children, the City of Wisconsin Rapids needs you. As we move ahead in our school year, we are looking for individuals to work day and/or afternoon shifts (approximately 7:45-8:45 a.m. and 3:15-4:15 p.m.) as Alternate School Crossing Guards. Compensation is $10.66 to $11.73 per crossing. For more information, or to apply, please click here.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Market Block Party, Council Selects Path on Aquatics, City Visit with Congressman Kind & Tribune receives Urban Design award



Residents Celebrate City’s Past, Present and Future During Market Block Party

I was gratified by the enthusiastic response by area residents to celebrate the past, present, and future of our City during the two-day Market Block Party on Tuesday evening, August 23rd and Wednesday the 24th.

The City and the Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce hosted the party to commemorate the clearance and reclamation work on the triangular Market Block bounded by 1st Street North, East Jackson Street and Market Street.

I personally thank the vendors who provided food and beverages for this twin event: Culver’s, J Squared Catering, Jamaican Kitchens, Rocky Rococo, Hawaiian Ice, Klaus Treat and S&S Distributors. Special appreciation also goes to the local entertainers who entertained us with live music: Goats in Trees on Tuesday evening, and Dade Grode on Wednesday.

The Market Block Party allowed us to reflect upon the hopes and dreams for redevelopment and renewal of Downtown Wisconsin Rapids. As I have stated previously, it is our intent to get this property made aware of to developers who will commit to building a multi-story, mixed-use structure that could contain apartments, condos, offices, retail space and restaurants. In this regard, event attendees demonstrated their engagement, by offering numerous ideas and suggestions that will surely be considered as we explore ways to best rebuild this area.

The City purchased the buildings previously occupied by Spath Accounting, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)/Bring’s and Good Time Charlie’s Sports Bar. City crews completed cleaning up the Spath and USDA building by mid-April. Once the former Good Time Charlie’s building has been removed, engineering consultant Robert E. Lee & Associates will perform an environmental assessment. With that due diligence underway, we have just begun the proposal process to select a qualified developer partner for ultimate redevelopment.

  • The City of Wisconsin Rapids is seeking statements of qualifications from developers (individuals, firms, or teams) interested in presenting a viable design and development concept  For more information in regards to Requests for Qualifications, please click, here.
  • The City of Wisconsin Rapids has just finished seeking proposals from qualified firms interested in contracting with the City to provide building demolition services for the removal and cleanup of the City-owned site. For more information in regards the Request for Proposals, please click, here.

As planning/development proceeds, I urge you as community members to continue making your voices heard on what opportunities you see for the site. The future vitality and prosperity of our City lie in the hands of all our citizens.

Council Approval of Outdoor Regional Aquatics Facility Brings City One Step Closer Toward Meeting City’s Recreational Needs

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 3.39.50 PMDuring a special Council session held Monday, August 22, Wisconsin Rapids City Council members voted 7-1 to pursue a regional-scale outdoor aquatics facility at Witter Field. This decision came as a result of extensive consideration by the Council of a YMCA collaborative opportunity for access to their indoor aquatic facility as well as consideration of a municipal-owned and run outdoor facility. Resident participation was high- with interested individuals weighing in via letters, phone calls, emails, social media and participation on my radio show. Many residents expressed interest in realizing both indoor and outdoor options. The council decision to pursue an outdoor facility brings this position closer to reality.

Council Video:

WR Tribune Coverage: 

After discussion among Council members, Public Works Director Joe Terry, YMCA CEO Bret Salscheider, citizens in attendance, and myself, the Council ultimately viewed this proposal as one that would provide our residents with predictability, optimal affordability and accessibility in terms of both location and hours of access. Having a City-controlled project also would make more certain an opening in time for the summer 2018 season.

pool-layout_2-conceptualBurbach Aquatic’s general scope proposal estimates that this project would encompass about 57,000 square feet. In addition to the aquatic recreational aspect, the facility would offer enhanced park facilities expanding the use beyond the summer season. A facility such as this would not only to attract residents but visitors from around the region for visits from a few hours, but encouraging extended, overnight visits.

At this point, the investment in a facility of this scale would be a minimum of $5 million, with the exact budget established after City leadership considers more details and designs as the development process goes forward.

In a second vote, Council members unanimously voted in favor of exploring the option to also install splash pads strategically throughout the City.

It was encouraging to see the level of interest this meeting evoked among members of our local community. About 50 residents attended, several of whom were given speaking time by their alderpersons to offer their opinions.

Although the majority of the Council felt that public funding should go to an outdoor facility, I would add that the YMCA vision of a healthy living center is certainly an exciting project. As someone who has lived my entire life in this community, I believe that the financial and human capital exist to make the Y’s project a reality now even with the Council’s decision not to contribute City taxpayer funding. A community of our size has the resources to ensure that indoor and outdoor facilities can coexist and be sustained. I look forward to encouraging and supporting the development where possible.

Alderman Todd Ferkey echoed this view when he advised Bret Salscheider to contact neighboring municipalities, as well as local foundations, to pursue funding options for the realization of the YMCA proposal. As Alderman Ferkey pointed out, having both outdoor and indoor aquatics options would provide a regional attraction that would generate revenue for our local economy, and make Wisconsin Rapids & central Wisconsin a better place to live and raise a family.

As the project-development process progresses on this important effort, I encourage residents to remain engaged and keep City officials aware of any concerns, questions or suggestions. We intend to include resident participation in various aspects of the design process. This is a community endeavor that will become reality only with the full participation of our citizens.

Roundtable discussion takes place with Congressman Kind

City staff and I recently had the opportunity to visit with Congressman Ron Kind of Wisconsin’s Third Congressional District to talk about issues and challenges that face our community.

KInd 1a visitRep. Kind, whose district includes Wisconsin Rapids, is a highly touted conversationalist who also understands that sustainable economic development helps build stronger and more vibrant communities, resulting in a higher quality of life.

During our meeting, we talked about local job growth, the waterfront development project, local infrastructure challenges, changes in the photo identification law in regard to elections and ways to provide early capital for local entrepreneurs to invigorate business.

Director of Public Works Joe Terry shared his vision and suggestions to help maintain and replace local roads, wastewater and other infrastructure in our community. He stated that keeping pace with repairs and replacements of 150 miles of local roads requires more federal funding, as well as a more efficient way to apply for grants to help fund these projects.

Group Ron KindWe also discussed the need for a highly skilled workforce to help alleviate the shortage of experienced, well-trained workers our community is going to face over the next 10 years.

During my tenure as Mayor, I have valued the importance of meeting with both state and federal leaders such as Rep. Kind, to voice the concerns and aspirations of our community. This exchange of ideas and goals, in turn, can help plant the seeds for progress and revitalization that benefit our community for generations to come.

Incourage Urban Planning Award Emphasizes Tribune Project Value to Downtown Redevelopment

In the midst of so much progress being made being made to revitalize our Downtown area, Incourage has just been honored for its Tribune Building Project with a 2016 American Planning Association (APA) of Wisconsin Award for Urban Design. The award highlights an approved design concept for a new or redeveloped area of unusually high quality.Tribune Building Drawing

This recognition is especially gratifying for our City, in that Adam Tegen, Director of Planning & Economic Development, nominated Incourage for the award.

Tribune Building Updates/FAQ can be found here.

The Tribune Building Project was judged on the criteria of originality and innovation; value added to the community; quality of physical form; relationship to the natural environment; and long-term sustainability.

Planners from Michigan and Minnesota reviewed the Tribune project, which one judge praised for its “visionary approach to community engagement and design.” Recognition such as this underscores the importance of the Tribune Building Project in generating enthusiasm and attention, as well as its potential for helping us to transform our Waterfront District.

Incourage will be presented with its award on September 23, during APA Wisconsin’s “Planning for Prosperity” Conference in Appleton.

With more than 2,000 residents thus far having contributed their time, ideas and energy, the Tribune Building Project reflects our community’s priorities to support entrepreneurial activities, local business and increased environmental awareness. Congratulations to Incourage for nurturing this important initiative.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink



World Water Ski Show and Downtown Grand Affair Celebration this Weekend!



World Water Ski Show Tournament Brings Invaluable Exposure to Wisconsin Rapids

The competitive aquatic sports world will be watching Wisconsin Rapids, September 9-11. That’s when the World Water Ski Show Tournament takes place at the Red Sands Beach area of Lake Wazeecha in South Wood County Park. Teams from the United States, China, Canada, Belgium and Australia will compete in this highly competitive international sporting event.

World Ski showWatch the video created by Wisconsin Rapids Community Media for World Ski Show, here.

The tournament will serve as another opportunity for our community to display to a wide audience our world-class hospitality in welcoming people of different backgrounds and cultures.

In addition, this event promises to have an enormous economic impact. The influx of dollars will come not only from spectators during the competition itself, but from the participants, most of whom will be in town throughout the week – providing a longer duration of economic opportunity for restaurants, hotels and other hospitality service businesses.

The World Water Ski Show serves as the peak of summer sports excitement for the City of Wisconsin Rapids. This year, we also have experienced the thrill of the 50th Annual Wisconsin State/Regional Water Ski Show Championships, and the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters’ incredible run to the Northwoods Collegiate League World Series Championship. All in all, our community could not have asked for a better summer of success and exposure.

If you have a chance, take time for the World Water Ski Show Tournament and continue to express our unique Wisconsin Rapids tradition as warm and gracious hosts. Congratulations to Visit Wisconsin Rapids & WR Aqua Skiers on making our host bid a successful one!

2016 Downtown Grand Affair Celebrates Tradition and Future

One of my favorite times of the year occurs when our community celebrates the end of summer and beginning of fall in our own way. Once again, the past, present and future of Downtown Wisconsin Rapids will be the focal points of the 16th Annual Downtown Grand Affairon Sunday, September 11.

Grand AffairFrom 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., West Grand Avenue and Grand Avenue Bridge will come alive with activities and special events the entire family can enjoy, including arts and crafts, farmers market, live music and food vendors, and the annual Cruise-In Car Show. Sports fans can also take in the Packer Game & Beer Tent.

You can also take in a bus tour of Historical Wisconsin Rapids, or a nature exhibit featuring the works of 35 local artists at the Central Wisconsin Cultural Center.

In addition, all past and present emergency services personnel, active military members, military veterans and the general public are invited to join in a special acknowledgement of the 15th anniversary of 9/11 at Veteran’s Memorial Park, beginning at 11 a.m. Performances of traditional patriotic tunes will be followed by a moment of silence, as we remember those who were lost on that dark day and their loved ones. (A group photo of emergency services personnel, military and veterans will be taken after the ceremony.)

Please join me as we close out the summer on both a festive and a patriotic note, on September 11!

“Get to Know Your City” Spotlights Our Local Public Servants

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 1.27.10 PMThrough his monthly City television program, “Get to Know Your City,” City of Wisconsin Rapids Multimedia Coordinator Tom Loucks for Wisconsin Rapids Community Media (WRCM) offers you an opportunity to learn more about the City officials, departments and offices that make Wisconsin Rapids work. The current edition profiles the career and work of Wisconsin Rapids Wastewater Treatment Plant Superintendent Jim Neitzel, while also providing an overview of the department’s responsibilities. Tune in “Get to Know Your City” on Solarus High Definition Channel 3 or Charter Standard Definition Channel 985, streaming on, Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm or any time on demand the Community Media’s website.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Market Block Party Celebration Kicks Off Tomorrow



You’re invited to Celebrate at the Market Block Party

1st St 1918 photo 04All area residents are invited to attend and enjoy the Market Block Party in Downtown Wisconsin Rapids, near the corner of First Street North and Market Street, across from the Wood County Courthouse and Clock Tower. This City and Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce-hosted event takes place tomorrow evening, August 23, from 5:00-8:00 p.m., and then again on Wednesday, August 24, from 11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. Food and beverages will be available for purchase, and live entertainment by Goats in Trees will add to the festive atmosphere tomorrow night and by Dane Grode on Wednesday.

We will celebrate the clearance and reclamation work that already has been accomplished at the Triangle Block site. It also will be a time to reflect upon the hopes and dreams for redevelopment that will help to re-create and revitalize the Downtown Wisconsin Rapids experience for residents and visitors alike.

IMG_2690Last year, the City bought the buildings previously occupied by Spath Accounting and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)/ formerly Brings, and just recently took ownership of the former Good Time Charlie’s Sports Bar. On February 29, City crews started demolishing the former Spath and USDA office buildings. Along with other City and Wood County representatives, I took a ceremonial sledgehammer swing to signify the beginning of the end for these buildings, which were dilapidated and had outlived their useful life. City crews completed cleaning up the Spath and USDA building by mid-April.

Once the former Good Time Charlie’s building has been removed, engineering consultant Robert E. Lee & Associates will perform an environmental assessment.

image1[1]As I noted in my March 11, Community Update, we don’t want to be a landlord, or to have long-term ownership of the site. We want to get it in the hands of private developers who will commit to building a multi-story, mixed-use structure that could contain apartments, condos, offices, retail space and restaurants. We have just began, in earnest, the proposal process to select a qualified developer.

We urge you to share your ideas during the Market Block Party about the future of this location- as any community redevelopment must be representative of our people and aspirations. And to acknowledge the historic significance of the Triangle, we also ask that you send any photographs that capture experiences you have shared at the site to

In the meantime, bring your friends, lawn chairs, blankets, and join us at the Market Block Party, tomorrow and Wednesday.

Hope to see all of you there!

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Wisconsin Rapids Aquatics Options Offer Path Forward to Exciting Aquatics Offerings



Aquatics Presentation Offers Path Forward to Exciting Aquatics Offerings

With a tradition of over 100 years of public aquatics, the City is looking at how best to use public funds to continue ensuring access to safe aquatic recreation that meets the needs of the entire community – kids, families, and seniors. Research into this decision has required considerations that are core to our community’s vitality including economic development, engaging youth and young families, inclusiveness and access.

A theme that has repeatedly occurred in feedback received from community members is the preference for both and indoor and outdoor aquatic options in the City. Why can’t we have both? has been asked many times. Both the City’s aquatics consultants and the YMCA’s consultants have determined that there is the market and desire for a regional aquatics facility as well as an indoor facility.

There are also economic opportunities for the City to take advantage of with an outdoor aquatic center that relate to the overall value and long term impact over the 40-50 year life of the facility.  An aquatic center is a family destination. Situated in Witter Field, near the library, Wisconsin Rapids Rafters, the Skate Park, Dairy Queen, East Junior High, and other amenities the entire Witter Field area becomes a family friendly entertainment hub. There is potential for regional draw to the entertainment hub that could result in economic development. An outdoor option would encourage residents to spend their money locally (instead of traveling to Weston or other areas) and entice others to visit our community. As an example, two teams passed on attending a WRYSA tournament in our community this summer due to the lack of outdoor aquatics.

If continuing the historical precedent of both and indoor and outdoor aquatics in the City is the preferred goal, the question before the Council and before City residents is how best to use public funds to further this goal.  We explored the idea and found that through existing relationships a partnership of philanthropy, non-profits, the YMCA, the City, and the surrounding municipalities can make both of indoor and outdoor aquatics offerings happen for Wisconsin Rapids residents, and would not require a choice between one or the other.

The YMCA is a tremendous asset to our community and at the forefront of healthy living, and specifically, for indoor aquatics opportunities. The YMCA, with the full support of the City, can pursue their Healthy Living Center and the indoor aquatics piece, as has been their historical place in our community as a private organization. In the context of achieving ‘both’, the City’s greatest impact can be achieved by stepping up and committing to building an outdoor aquatics center, as the only partner at the table who can dedicate the resources. The City could make the financial investment in this community asset – to build the facility, maintain it, and operate it. As part of this collaboration, the City would work with surrounding municipalities to establish access for their residents help ease the burden on City taxpayers.  These discussions have already been happening.  It is not the intention to delay a decision or construction until such collaboration comes to fruition.  It is a win-win for the partners and all residents of Wisconsin Rapids to work towards continuing to provide both indoor and outdoor aquatics offerings to meet our community needs.  The City is asking all partners, both private and public, to join with the YMCA and the City in making these aquatics facilities a reality.

See Size Comparison here. See the FAQ here. View All Aquatic info here.

Features of the proposed YMCA indoor aquatic center would include:

  • Lap pool with 6 lanes, a climbing structure, inflatable play element and ADA lift. Lazy River, shallow water play
  • Family recreation pool with a lazy river, water slide, movable basketball hoop and ADA lift
  • Shallow end of the pool with a play structure and splash pad, and ramp access from the deeper water.Option A Plan
  • Spa/whirlpool and interactive water feature will be next to the shallow end
  • Sauna and pool viewing/lounge area
  • Indoor rock climbing
  • 8,000 sf of water area for a total facility size of more than 14,000 square feet
  • 2,500 hours of non-member community access per year, with reduced admission and swim lesson rates
  • Maximum pool user capacity: 152 people; Facility Capacity: 335 people
  • Expected life of 50 years

A YMCA operated facility indoor facility with shared access offers the advantages of providing daily access to residents on a year-round basis. The city would not have the expense of operating a facility, a savings of $70,000 per year, but would still contribute to a to-be-determined maintenance reserve fund.

An outdoor facility seeks to achieve four common objectives: Recreation, wellness, competition and education.

The city considered proposals for outdoor swimming facilities that would be located at either the current Mead Pool site or at Witter Field. Proposals were broken down by probable construction cost ($4.6 million to $8.4 million, probable city operating subsidy ($49,900 to $76,200), total water surface area (8,486 to 14,584 square feet) and maximum user capacity (468 to 737).

Outdoor ConceptualConsidering a regional aquatic center sized for a community our size, characterized by more than 10,000 square feet of water surface area; a multi-use facility where people make multiple visits, staying an average of 4.5 hours per visit. The regional concept also would tend to attract people from a wider geographic area. This is an important consideration, given that a total of more than 103,000 people live within a 30-mile radius of Wisconsin Rapids.

Amenities considered in Burbach Associates outdoor regional facility would include:

  • Diving tower
  • Splash pad/spray feature
  • Multiple slides
  • Shaded structures
  • Zero-­depth entry pool
  • Lazy river
  • Picnic shelter area
  • Concessions
  • Grass lounge area
  • Children’s play areas
  • Pool surface area capacity: 570 people; Total Facility capacity: 737 people

An outdoor facility owned and operated by the City would be in a central location in the city, easy for youth to get to the facility and other amenities. While not year-round, during prime time periods has availability for uninterrupted open swim time, allowing for greater spontaneity of visits and easing time constrained access concerns. An outdoor aquatic center has a greater capacity than any previous facility. The current plan has capacity for 570 bathers, with an additional 167 in the deck areas.

Comparison Chart here:

Youth Perspective

The July 26 Aquatics Presentation also was highlighted by a video summary of results from an aquatics survey of young people conducted by the Mayor’s Youth Council, which was represented that evening by Lexi Allworden, Claire Freeh and Ryann Swanson. The survey, which connected with 515 area youths, ages 13-18 and grades 9-12, revealed:

  • 56% in favor of building new pool in place of Mead Pool; only 3% think it’s a poor idea
  • 42% would “most likely” use an inside pool; only 5% not likely
  • Use of new pool in different location, 43% very likely; 5% not likely
  • Favorite site: 63% Witter Field site; 32% at current pool site; 5% other
  • Top teen desires: Wading pool machine, diving board and concessions

These findings confirm the importance our local youth attach to recreational aquatics opportunities in our area.

A new aquatics facility will require both capital to construct and a budget to operate annually. Regardless of the preference – indoor or outdoor – generally new aquatics facilities serving a city or regional scale cost a minimum of $5 million. The city would borrow for a term of 20 years to pay back the capital investment. We will also be actively seeking donors and sponsors for various aspects of a facility. The property tax impact on a $100,000 property is estimated to be approximately $33.80 per year, for 20 years. Historically low interest rates make the timing ideal.

Public aquatics has been a component of the City’s fabric for more than 100 years. City leaders understand the social, recreational and educational importance of public, universal access to swimming pools. As was stated during our presentation, an aquatics facility provides a space where children, adults and families can enhance their health and well being; and where individuals can get “connected” and experience a sense of belonging.

With time to ponder the array of potential options now available, the City Council will establish a “path forward” at a special Common Council meeting on Monday, August 22. It is our shared desire to have a new public aquatics offering up and running by the summer of 2018. Your alderpersons and I continue to welcome your feedback and questions.

I encourage you as residents to make your questions and opinions heard by calling my office at 715-421-8216, or by posing your comments/questions via e-mail at Citizen engagement is the key to answering our community’s desire for a quality aquatics experience.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink