It’s an exciting moment for Wisconsin Rapids!
Today, the Riverview Hospital Association and John E. Alexander YMCA announced a mutual letter of intent to collaborate on the construction and operation of a new YMCA facility in Wisconsin Rapids. Proposed to be located on land donated by Riverview, the facility will be designed to address a wide range of community health and wellness needs as well as an expansion of Riverview’s services. A video of the press conference can be viewed by visiting this link.
What Does This Mean To Our Community?
Collaborating to meet community needs is essential. It is wonderful to have two community-minded organizations creatively come together to improve our community’s health and well-being. Not only can more be done with limited resources, leveraging synergies between entities is being better stewards of those resources.
The location and connection to the Riverview Medical Center will support a new dimension of medical care- wellness. As health care delivery continues to evolve and change, keeping people well is just as important as treating people when they get sick.
The location will not only strengthen the neighborhood surrounding Riverview but our entire community. It will also connect with our neighboring river recreational trails as well as pedestrian and new bicycle accommodations. Recreation is a top priority as was identified in the 2012 Community wide survey by Incourage of greater Wisconsin Rapids area residents. The neighboring natural asset, our river, will become an even greater attraction as new recreational uses are explored.
The facility will strengthen us economically. As we compete for businesses and talent, a recurring question is where people will spend their time when not at work. The facility will not only result in construction jobs and work for local contractors, but will compliment the efforts of those looking to attract and retain jobs for people here.
Opportunities to attract and retain young adults/families. As we work to create a healthy demographic balance, this facility and partnership play an integral role in that vision. The announced facility is more than just a building; it will serve as a place to nurture the potential of children and families through youth development, while helping to improve the health and well-being of all our people.
This announcement is an important milestone for our community. Much work and support will be needed as this project proceeds.
What does this mean to the City?
One specific component planned for the facility is aquatics. Aquatic facilities have been an essential part of the Wisconsin Rapids community and culture for over 100 years. As far back as the original “River Water Pool,” where our first municipal pool was established in 1913, to our current Mead Pool, our community has provided aquatics facilities to all our residents.
More recently, I spoke of the need for finding solutions to the challenges the City was faced with our aquatics at my State of the City Address. At the event, I spoke on the current state of Mead Pool – now 36 years old and pushing the expected life for a pool of its kind in Wisconsin. With the pool reaching the end of its life expectancy, and costs to repair now far exceeding reasonable costs, I called for the need to find a more long-term, permanent solution for our aquatic needs- one that is sustainable and demonstrates fiscal responsibility to the taxpayer and its contributors.
Next week, our city council will consider a resolution renewing our commitment to aquatics offerings for all our residents. An ad-hoc committee will be formed to quantify existing pool usage, understand the significant maintenance and operational challenges of our current pool as well as consider how to engage our residents in the dialogue.
Another objective is to consider if and how a collaborative approach to solving our aquatics challenges is practical.
There are obvious synergies with partnering on a facility- financing, operations and maintenance. Not so obvious is how to keep the access public. In exploring this for some time, there are many ways cities and YMCAs have collaborated around the country. We will have to discuss and determine how all of our city residents could access regardless of one’s socioeconomic standing. I look forward to working with our city council to explore a possible collaboration with this project.
The needs of our community have changed and therefore our thinking and acting must continue to adapt. I am thrilled Riverview and the John E. Alexander YMCA recognize that and are willing to partner to serve our community’s needs. I am hopeful this is first of many creative collaborations to make our community stronger.
Onward and upward,
Mayor Zach Vruwink
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