COMMUNITY UPDATE – Wisconsin Rapids awarded State Economic Development grant for Tribune Building project



Wisconsin Rapids awarded State economic development grant for Tribune ‘Community Accelerator’ project

IMG_1965 copyEarlier this morning, Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and representatives of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) joined myself, other local officials and project representatives in downtown Wisconsin Rapids to announce the awarding of a $472,000 grant to help fund the renovation of the Tribune Community Accelerator site. See the release here.


From left to right: Jason Scott, WEDC; Naletta Burr, WEDC; Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch; Kelly Ryan, Incourage; and Mayor Zach Vruwink, City of Wisconsin Rapids. Photo by Incourage Community Foundation

WEDC’s Community Development Investment Grant program bases its awards on the ability of applicants to demonstrate the impact of the proposed project, including public and private partnership development, financial need, and use of sustainable downtown development practices. Lt. Gov. Kleefisch highlighted these criteria when she pointed out, “This building, which now represents history, now will represent the future.” In many ways, the proximity of the Tribune building and the community’s involvement in the project is a testament to that.

Since Incourage Community Foundation purchased the 19,868-square-foot Tribune Building, more than 800 residents have invested more than 5,500 hours in public meetings to determine the facility’s future use. A first-of-its-kind, the Community Accelerator plans include an art studio and classroom; brewpub and café with rooftop lounge; creative workshop/makerspace; culinary kitchen, youth spaces, meeting room, microbrewery, recreational rental shop, retail store for local goods and other public spaces. An adjacent underutilized parking lot and greenspace will offer additional civic space with connectivity to the Tribune building and other surrounding properties.

What economic benefits will come as a result? On the surface, this redevelopment project is expected to create 14 new full-time positions and 23 new part-time positions, while supporting more than 200 temporary construction jobs and more than doubling the value of the property.

IMG_2006As Kelly Ryan, Incourage president and CEO, noted, this grant further demonstrates how public-private and philanthropic partnerships can help shape a strong and inclusive local economy, and serve as a catalyst for new opportunities in community cohesiveness, commerce, entrepreneurship, and sustainable design. Read Kelly’s Blog Post here.

As Mayor of Wisconsin Rapids, I am grateful to the State of Wisconsin for investing in Wisconsin Rapids through the development grant. I also express heartfelt thanks to Incourage Community Foundation and its leadership for their ongoing commitment to our City’s economic development.

Wisconsin Rapids’ unique riverfront and surrounding spaces possess great potential in growing our local economy and stimulating investment. This enormous potential is illustrated by the fact that, as we stood at the entrance of what will be the new Tribune, we were mere steps away from our most important asset and resource – the Wisconsin River. Education, recreation and interaction will permeate the building’s connection with the river.

IMG_2028 copyJason Scott, WEDC’s Community Development Manager, summed it up nicely by saying that community development is economic development; that continued investment in our Downtown area represents our very future. In concert with City and private investments in our downtown area, and progress on triangle redevelopment near the Courthouse and the Riverfront design process, this WEDC grant further enables our community and its residents to continue laying a solid foundation for a new, dynamic and diverse economic renaissance that will benefit generations to come.

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

Who is Incourage Community Foundation? Who is WEDC?



Community Update – Summer fun coming to a close



Park & Recreation summer fun coming to a close, with fall programs just around the corner;

The City of Wisconsin Rapids Park & Recreation Department’s summer season is quickly winding down, as Mead Pool closes Thursday, August 20, while the Municipal Zoo closes Sunday, August 23.

But if one (or more!) of your “family members” is a canine, you can still experience Mead Pool this Friday, August 21, for Doggie Daze. Residents can bring their dogs – with up-to-date vaccinations and who meet other requirements – to romp in the pool for one final family-oriented splash.

But even as the summer season comes to an end, Park & Rec offers a full slate of activities for the fall, with registration beginning online or in person on August 24.

Register online for fall Parks and Recreation programs.Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 1.44.41 PM

Programs include tumbling classes for children ages 2-9, soccer for children ages 3-7 and tennis lessons for children ages 4-10; along with co-recreational adult and men’s volleyball leagues.

Two unique programs that promise to be a lot of fun are Nerf Wars, a “soft” combat competition for young people ages 7-14; and Pickleball, a fast-growing – and fast-moving – sport that combines, badminton, ping-pong and racquetball.

Residents can also look forward to two special events: the Great Pumpkin Hunt on October 29; and, just in time for the holidays, cupcake decorating classes for all “kids” ages 7 through adult.

Park & Recreation programs are also about promoting youth-development skills. The always-popular Red Cross babysitting certification classes for young people ages 11 and older return in October.

Take time to visit the Park & Recreation website or call 715-421-8240, starting August 24, to get full details on how you can register for these activities!

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


COMMUNITY UPDATE – Senator Baldwin’s Waterfront Community Revitalization & Resiliency Act; Supermass presents second Riverfront designs; Wisconsin Rapids wins Blue Ribbon for best-tasting water



Senator Baldwin’s Waterfront Community Revitalization and Resiliency Act

In my State of the City Address this past February, I stated that now is the time for us, as a community, to recognize that a vibrant Downtown waterfront area is key to maximizing our potential for economic growth and making our area an ideal place to live, work and play. A strategic plan of action must include private investments in place; City property reuse; and preliminary design work for improvements along the east and west banks of the river by Supermass Studio. The goal has been to continue to build public support for development, while establishing a realistic scope and cost for the work.Baldwin resiliency act image

With this in mind, we are excited by the possibilities U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin offers in proposed legislation she announced recently- The Waterfront Community Revitalization and Resiliency Act– which would support local efforts to revive waterfronts along the Great Lakes, oceans, rivers and lakes to promote robust and durable economic, ecosystem and community sustainability.

With specific regard to the Wisconsin Rapids area, the Waterfront Community Revitalization and Resiliency Act would make available tangible and impactful benefits, by:

  1. Funding grants ranging from $50,000 to $1 million to develop and implement projects such as improving waterfront access, acquiring easements from developers for public amenities and making infrastructure upgrades;
  2. Extending preferred status in other federal grant and loan programs to help waterfront projects move forward more quickly and help maximize the value of federal investments; and
  3. Establishing a network of Resilient Waterfront Communities to share best practices, highlight model communities and help attract new investment.

Given our attention to our waterfront, this bill is timely and potentially invaluable. The language in the bill strongly reflects our efforts and focus here in terms of acknowledging the importance of developing a viable community waterfront plan. The legislation also reinforces the vision of our citizens – a public investment in our waterfront development and infrastructure that reflects our focus on our Downtown waterfront district as a commercial – residential – recreational destination. I am pleased with Senator Baldwin’s leadership to make our waterways here and nationally a priority!

Supermass Studio presents second-phase Riverfront Design concepts

On a very related note, I was inspired to see City residents continue to help steer the direction of Wisconsin Rapids waterfront development last Wednesday evening, August 5. Supermass Studio co-founder and design team lead Taewook Cha presented the refined concepts for open spaces along the Wisconsin River at Veterans Memorial Park, following the Community Picnic across the river.

The City of Wisconsin Rapids and Supermass Studio show new River Front design concepts during a presentation August 5, 2015 in Veterans Park. Photo by RCCA Media/Travis Plowman

The City of Wisconsin Rapids and Supermass Studio display the latest Riverfront design project concepts during a presentation August 5, 2015 in Veterans Park.
Photo by RCCA Media/Travis Plowman

This was the second phase of the Riverfront Design project concepts, developed from feedback residents provided on the initial proposals presented at Lunch by the River in early July. Afterward, the public and City leaders were given the opportunity to express their opinions to Taewook during a Q&A and feedback session.

Having now twice engaged area citizens for their input on the early designs, Supermass plans to give a third presentation in September, incorporating additional concepts and changes from residents and City officials. Following that, City staff and I will undergo a process to gain further input from the public on the long-term vision for the spaces along the river. So stay engaged!

To ensure that all our citizens have the opportunity to engage with the design process, I strongly encourage you to visit our City website for a view of Taewook’s presentation from last week, and to get a full-fledged view of all the second-phase photos and maps. As we approach the final design, we will be reaching out for your specific feedback on the proposed designs.

If you missed the event you can view the video by RCCA Media.  

Wisconsin Rapids has Wisconsin’s “best-tasting water”

The City of Wisconsin Rapids Water Works and Lighting Commission (WWLC) won the 2015 title for

The City of Wisconsin Rapids Water Works and Lighting Commission (WWLC) won the 2015 title for “Best-Tasting Water” during the Wisconsin State Fair.

This past Monday, August 10, the City of Wisconsin Rapids Water Works and Lighting Commission (WWLC) won the 2015 title for “Best-Tasting Water” during the Wisconsin State Fair. WWLC submitted a water sample for the fair’s annual water taste-testing event and finished in first place. Samples were judged on the basis of taste, odor and clarity of appearance. Celebrity judges included representatives of MillerCoors, Ocean Spray, The Water Council, Public Service Commission and Wisconsin brew masters.

The competition – sponsored by the Wisconsin Water Association  – included 21 drinking water utilities from around the state. The taste test showcased the work of more than 900 water professionals in Wisconsin who provide safe, high-quality drinking water.

Wisconsin Rapids will now compete for a national title at ACE16, the American Water Works Association annual conference, to be held in Chicago, June 19-22, 2016.

Thank you for reading,
Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update – Waterfront Design Presentation, Community Picnic, “Raft the Wisconsin,” and Northwoods League All-Star Game Recap



Waterfront Preliminary Design Presentation

I am again excited to invite residents to continue to guide the future of the Wisconsin Rapids waterfront, this Wednesday evening. That is when Supermass Studio design team-lead Taewook Cha presents the refined concepts for open spaces along the Wisconsin River. This event will take place Wednesday, August 5, at Veterans Memorial Park at 8:30 p.m. Bring a blanket or a chair!

The concepts that will be presented have been developed from feedback received on the initial concepts presented at Lunch by the River in early July. The presentation will be followed by a Q&A and feedback session.

Our goal is to further guide the preliminary design toward an outcome that will best serve the community at large. Please join us!

Aug 5 Evening Presentation Invite

Join your neighbors for the Community Picnic

Also returning this Wednesday evening is an outstanding tradition begun by Incourage Community Foundationcommunity picnic. That’s when the fourth annual Community Picnic takes place, from 4:30 to 8:00 p.m., adjacent to the Tribune Building, at the intersection of 1st Avenue S. and Johnson Street in Downtown Wisconsin Rapids. Residents of all ages can enjoy delicious food, live music – and a petting zoo!

It has been extremely gratifying to see this event grow and evolve each year. Even more heartening has been the donations of time, money and other forms of support by so many citizen-volunteers and local businesses making it truly a “community” picnic.

The Community Picnic provides a wonderful time for area residents to gather and enjoy being together in a celebration of our community. I look forward to seeing you there. 

“Raft the Wisconsin” Race

Join me for the first ever “Raft the Wisconsin” Race where I will be paddling and running with others this Saturday morning, August 8.

Beginning from the Tribune Building, individual competitors will paddle a raft across to the east side of the river, and finish by running the rest of the distance to the Witter Field. Winners will be recognized on-field prior to the Rafters game that evening. The race begins at 10:00 a.m.

Rosco-Rafting-There is a $10 entry fee. which includes a raft and paddles for the race, a Rafters hat, a ticket to that evening’s Rafters game, a guaranteed Rosco Rafting Bobblehead and post-race snacks at the stadium.

Please join me Saturday morning to participate in this fun event! You can register by emailing 

Kudos to an All-Star-caliber community

All-Star-Game-2011-250x187On Tuesday, July 21, Wisconsin Rapids hosted the Northwoods League All-Star Game at Witter Field. It was another memorable and festive occasion, highlighted by a free-swinging Home Run Challenge, an exciting nine innings of high-level collegiate-star baseball and the energy generated by a stadium- capacity turnout. The selection of our City to host this event for the second time all-star-logo_finalin just the past few years is a tribute to the outstanding job done by the management and staff of the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters baseball organization, City partnership and sponsors; the outpouring of support our community of enthusiastic and knowledgeable fans has displayed for our local team; and the warm and cordial reception our residents extend to the many visitors who attend these events. Congratulations to our community for again hitting a home run in hosting another successful All Star Game!

Mayor Zach Vruwink