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.
A SHARED COMMUNITY ASSET
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.
A MORE COMPREHENSIVE COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP
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.
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.
- 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).
Considering 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
- 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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Citizen engagement is the key to answering our community’s desire for a quality aquatics experience.
Thanks for reading,
Mayor Zach Vruwink