Community Update: Aquatics Fundraising Kick-off Continues- Brat Fry & Root Beer Floats Friday, City Taking Action Against Emerald Ash Borer



Take the Plunge; Brat Fry & Root Beer Floats Friday

Our week of taking the “Plunge” for aquatics is almost over, but you still have the chance in our kick-off fundraising event for the Regional Aquatic Center Friday, with a Brat Fry and Root Beer Float Social.

I invite you to join me and City Staff at City Hall from 11am -1pm for a cheery meet-and-greet. Brats, Burgers and Root Beer Floats are available for purchase. Donations are also welcomed!

City Taking Action Against Emerald Ash Borer

City of Wisconsin Rapids crews have been diligently treating trees along our expressway to combat the emerald ash borer (EAB) infestation that was first detected during April of 2016. Due to the treatment process, travel lanes along the expressway have been partially closed.

Wisconsin Rapids crews expect to treat between 100 and 140 public trees this year, with the balance of such trees slated for treatment during 2018. Treatment against EAB is generally effective for about two or three years, at which time another treatment can be applied.

As I related back in March of this year, our goals are to:

  • Delay devastation of current tree stock;
  • Allow time to take down infected trees; and
  • Replant more diverse species of trees. To assist us with this effort – consider a tree sponsorship at

Tom Loucks/WRCM – New trees have been planted along the Expressway to replace the ones that were to heavily infested with EAB.

A State of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources matching grant enabled us to prepare a tree inventory and urban forestry management plan, which has allowed us to set proper priorities in dealing with this problem as effectively as possible.

For more general information on EAB, residents can refer to the City website.

If you are interested in finding treatment options for the trees on your property, you can go, here or check out these two links below:

To find further information and guidance regarding options for your property and businesses, call the Department of Public Works at 715-421-8255.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

Community Update: Aquatics Center Fundraising Kicks Off with a Splash



Aquatic Center Fundraising Kicks Off with a Splash

Formally our community began its “plunge” into a new era in Wisconsin Rapids history: We celebrated the kick-off of fundraising for the Regional Aquatics Park at Witter Field with a float at the Cranberry Blossom Fest Parade.

Our theme is, ”Learn, Give, Make a Splash!” – and to that end, we have put together a week’s worth of fun events designed to publicize this effort and spur support:

  • Monday, June 19, 1:30
    & 7:00 p.m.:
    The “Monday Movie @ McMillan Library” presents The Eagle Huntress, an inspiring family film that documents the story of a 13-years-old girl who, with the coaching of her father, tries to become the first girl from her nomadic Mongolian culture to learn to hunt with a trained eagle.
  • Tuesday, June 20, 6:00 p.m.: “City Council takes the Plunge!” City Hall Council Chambers will take on a festive atmosphere, as Council members show up in their finest beach attire to acknowledge their colleagues who have played significant leading roles in making the aquatics plans a reality.
  • Wednesday, June 21, 10:00-11:00 a.m.: The Aquatics Park Fundraising Marathon will be conducted during my monthly “Morning Magazine” broadcast with WFHR AM1320 radio host Carl Hilke. You can donate during the live Facebook, radio and Charter Ch. 985/Solarus 3 simulcasts.
  • Thursday, June 22, 11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m.: Lunch By The River – Join members of the Mayor’s Youth Council to “Give and Learn” more about the project.
  • Friday, June 23, 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.: Brat Fry and Root Beer Float Social – I invite you to join me and City Staff at City Hall for a cheery meet-and-greet. Donations are welcomed and will be accepted!

This is the time for all citizens to step forward and contribute to making our long-held vision of a modern, high-quality aquatics facility a resoundingly successful dream-come-true!

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

Community Update: Relax and enjoy the sights & sounds of the City Band, City Again Supports Summer Camp for Area Youth



Relax and enjoy the sights & sounds of the City Band

The Wisconsin Rapids City Band has a rich tradition in Wisconsin Rapids celebrating 154 years of providing musical entertainment for all ages to enjoy outdoors at Robinson Park. Last year, we we’re proud to break a 10 year spell of not contributing to help make this program possible through a City sponsorship. We did it again this year! I will be taking part in the excitement this year by introducing the band’s new conductor Keith Olson, who replaced Bob Kaiser who retired from the band last year.

Photo by Tom Loucks/WRCM
Wisconsin Rapids Mayor Zach Vruwink introduces the Cranberry Princesses during the  the first City Band concert in 2016 at Robinson Park.

I encourage all ages to get outdoors by taking part in a concert series this season. The summer series kicks off tomorrow evening June 13, at 7:15 pm.  Please take note two concerts this year are being held at two separate locations; Centralia Center on the 4th of July and the benefit concert on Sunday, August 6, in the Performing Arts Center.  If there is inclement weather, all concerts are held at the PAC at 7:45 pm.

You can watch the concert series from your car or bring a lawn chair, but we also have benches and a dance floor if you wish to take part in.

Below is a list of the concert series:

  • June 13 – 7:15 p.m. Robinson Park *City Sponsored*
  • June 20 – 7:15 p.m. Robinson Park
  • July 4 –  7 p.m. Centralia Center
  • July 11-  7:15 p.m. Robinson Park
  • July 25 – 7:15 p.m. Robinson Park
  • August 1 (Dance Concert)  –  7:15 p.m. Robinson Park
  • August 5 – (Special Benefit Concert) 2 p.m. Performing Arts Center

City Again Supports Summer Camp for Area Youth  

For the second year in a row, the Wisconsin Rapids City Council voted to support a Summer Camp program for youngsters ages 6 to 12, in collaboration with South Wood County YMCA and Mead Charter Elementary School.

The camp will offer activities from now through August 31, providing a variety of fun recreational, academic and mentoring experiences that will enable kids to stay motivated, active and entertained.

To register, stop in at either of the Wisconsin Rapids YMCA location, at 1421 Pepper Avenue, or call 715-887-3240 for more information.

Watch the video below to see the 2016 YMCA Summer Camp.

Volunteers Needed to Pitch In and Support Recycling Rangers

Volunteers are wanted to help clean up before, during and after civic events. This summer, the Recycling Rangers ask you to join in several opportunities to enhance our City’s eye appeal to visitors from far and wide.   For more information on how you can volunteer, contact Carol Davis at 715-459-6642, or Bill Clendenning at 715-423-2469, Or, you can sign up now, right here.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

Community Update: Sand Valley Golf Resort holds “Community Day”, Creates Economic Growth; Splash Pad Groundbreaking Wednesday



Splash Park Groundbreaking Wednesday

I invite community residents to join me tomorrow for a special event that takes  Wisconsin Rapids another step toward restoring family friendly aquatics opportunities to our citizens.

City leaders and representatives from MSA Professional Services, Inc. and the Legacy Foundation of Central Wisconsin will host a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Mead Field splash pad, on Wednesday, May 3, at 12:00 noon, at 311 17th Avenue South. Also on hand will be some of the student leaders from Mead Elementary Charter School Youth who participated in the design process.

Attendees will be able to view display boards depicting the facility’s bright colors, and interactive learning and game-playing features. We anticipate the splash pad being up and running by midsummer.

The Legacy Foundation, based here in Wisconsin Rapids, deserves our deep gratitude for providing a major gift of financing for the splash pad.

Look forward to an enthusiastic turnout by residents tomorrow.

Sand Valley Golf Resort held “Community Day” before today’s opening!

A stunningly beautiful property.  Photo submitted by Sand Valley Golf Resort

In a much anticipated occasion, Sand Valley Golf Resort held a preview of its facility Monday, May 1. This special “Community Day” took place a day before the official opening of the resort’s world-class golf course on May 2.

The event featured managing partner Michael Keiser, who provided a development update for the benefit of community members.


Sand Valley Golf Resort Offers Promise of Area Economic Growth

Photo submitted by Sand Valley Golf Resort : A sunset view.

The potential benefits of the Sand Valley Golf Course for our area are exciting and will no doubt spur economic impact in our region. My recent visit to Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Bandon, OR., with our Central WI Economic Development delegation has given me and our group an enlightening experience.(I will share more on this visit in a future post!)

As evidenced by the interest the property has already gained from visitors and the news media, the expansion of golfing opportunities will bring an expansion of overnight accommodations at Sand Valley, as well as a significant increase in traffic at our South Wood County Airport. Sand Valley General Manager Glen Murray estimates that the resort will host some 200,000 golfers this year.

That number will only increase: Starting this June, Sand Valley will welcome visitors for preview play on its Mammoth Dunes course, due to open in 2018 (along with a three-par course). This is significant news, because Murray pointed out that when the first golf course opened just for preview play during September of 2016, Alexander Field traffic was three times the volume during September of 2015; Sand Valley welcomed golfers from 10 different nations and from more than 40 states across this country. In all, Murray said, the first course garnered some 9,000 rounds of preview play during 2016.

As last year’s World Water Ski Tournament demonstrated, attractions such as Sand Valley Golf Resort generate increased out-of-town traffic and extended-stay tourist visits. These, in turn, produce a multiplier-dollar effect for our South Wood County Airport- Alexander Field and local businesses.

As he did earlier this year during the Heart of Wisconsin Annual Meeting & Awards, Murray praised the virtues of heartland American hospitality and friendliness. These uniquely central Wisconsin characteristics have already made an impression on national and international visitors, and will be crucial to our area’s ongoing economic growth.

Additional ideas:

  • Sand Valley to employ 300+ in 2017
  • 2016 preview golf welcomed golfers from 10 different countries and over 40 states across USA
  • Alexander Field Airport traffic tripled its previous year’s traffic the month of September in 2016 when 18 holes opened for preview play

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update: Aquatic Center Designs Revealed, Wisconsin Rapids a Key Community for Medical College of Wisconsin, PBS TV Show Highlights the People and Places of Wisconsin Rapids



Aquatic Center Designs Revealed

The proposed Wisconsin Rapids Aquatic facility slated to be built alongside Witter Field has taken shape. At a presentation last Thursday night, the Mayor’s Youth Council, the project design team and I revealed the extensive state-of-the-art facility designs to the community. The project design lead by MSA Professional Services and Water Technologies Inc., has been working with input from the City and our residents to develop a high-quality, regional-scale destination!

Notable features include: a tot interactive water play area, lazy river, climbing wall, geysers, shallow water zero depth entry area, basketball hoops, water walk, recreational lap swim, two slide variations and concessions.

Slide presentation available, here.

A Lazy River is incorporated into the project. See more examples of amenities by clicking on this photo.

With Witter Field a major asset in our community, the placement of the facility will only enhance and create a cohesive design by being a multi-purpose seasonal use facility. By incorporating many state-of-the-art outdoor elements in the master plan, we are ensuring the center provides for a fun and safe family environment, one that will also enhance tourism efforts in the city and in return will help provide a return on the city’s economic investments.

Not only do we want the site to be an attractive and high-end aquatics park for generations to come and visit, we also want the area area to be used as a multipurpose facility that can be used throughout the year with multiple uses beyond aquatics: all-season reservable shelter for birthday parties, wedding venues, business meetings and in the winter, provide an ice-skating rink and skating loop along with a warming house that will invigorate Wisconsin Rapids thought the entire year.

Achieving a new aquatic facility has been a long process- decades, in fact- however, I am optimistic that community members and donors will rally to make the facility a reality!

Stay in the know by subscribing to our aquatics updates, here.

Wisconsin Rapids a Key Community for Medical College of Wisconsin

Lisa Dodson, M.D., Campus Dean of Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW)-Central Wisconsin recently noted, “The city of Wisconsin Rapids is an important geographic location for the MCW-Central Wisconsin’s region-wide curriculum … to identify future students from the area with an interest in healthcare professions and keep them on a trajectory for future medical college acceptance.”

Our being a focal point for this prestigious institution can play a significant role in our ability to attract and retain high-quality medical professionals. The MCW-Central Wisconsin campus trains primary care physicians, surgeons and psychiatrists who will live and work in the region when they complete their medical education. These future physicians, in turn, can help to ensure the sustainability of our local healthcare system.

Click on the video above to learn more about the campus.

On Wednesday, April 19, MCW-Central Wisconsin will emphasize its focus on Wisconsin Rapids, by hosting a community town hall event at Aspirus Riverview Hospital. Aspiring medical professionals and interested community members are invited to learn more about the MCW’s Wausau campus, its impact on Wisconsin Rapids and opportunities to get involved. The event begins at 5:30 p.m.

This event comes on the heels of last month’s visit to MCW’s Wausau campus by 50 Wisconsin Rapids high school students. During sessions led by MCW-Central Wisconsin physician staff members, students participated in a class lecture, medical student exercises and a hands-on brain investigation with body donor organs. Students were also able to discuss with campus assistant deans the life and work of family practice and how to navigate a path to medical school. Aspirus Riverview Foundation funded the visit.

The connection between our community and MCW-Central Wisconsin reveals a uniquely synergistic relationship. Even now, MCW students experience ongoing learning opportunities in Wisconsin Rapids, serving clinical apprenticeships with local physician faculty members. And MCW-Central Wisconsin works in partnership with the best medical and academic facilities in the region, including Aspirus; Ministry Health Care; Northcentral Technical College; and the Marathon County, Marshfield/Wood County and Stevens Point campuses of the University of Wisconsin.

Let’s do our part to nurture this relationship. For more information about the April 19 event or about MCW-Central Wisconsin, call 715-870-0900 or  

PBS TV Show Highlights the People and Places of Wisconsin Rapids

Click on the video above to watch Around the Corner show about Wisconsin Rapids with John McGivern.

It’s “Lights … Camera … Action!” for Wisconsin Rapids.

Our City is the focus of a personal and in-depth view of our how we live, work and play, on the latest edition of the PBS series, “Around the Corner with John McGivern.”

Wisconsin Rapids gets its “close-up” on Wisconsin Public Television.

Now in its sixth season, “Around the Corner” features Emmy-winning actor John McGivern as he explores the individual lifestyles, personalities and histories of Wisconsin communities.

I heartily invite residents to enjoy this entertaining and informative overview of what makes the Wisconsin Rapids area such a special place. Don’t turn it off early, as you will see a 60-second appearance by your’s truly!

Thanks for reading!

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update: Public Invited to Unveiling of Outdoor Aquatics Center Designs, National Grants Support Arts Projects for Underserved Populations



Public Invited to Unveiling of Witter Field Aquatic Center Designs

On April 6, community members will have another opportunity to view an exciting phase in the ongoing revitalization of Wisconsin Rapids, and lend their voices to our City’s progress. I extend to area residents an invitation to attend the unveiling of conceptual designs for the $8.5-million Wisconsin Rapids Aquatic Center, on Thursday, April 6. This event begins at 7 p.m., at the Performing Arts Center of Wisconsin Rapids, 1801 16th Street South.

Find out more from the Youth Council in this video. RSVP here: 

At that time, civic design consultant MSA Professional Services will present the Concept Master Plan for the Witter Field facility. In addition, members of the Mayor’s Youth Council will share their plans to raise the funds that will help to make the aquatic center a reality. An open house will precede and follow the presentations, along with a question-and-answer session.

The Witter aquatics center is an important project for the future of our community – it is designed to be a multi-experience attraction, drawing visitors from across the region and helping to establish Wisconsin Rapids as a destination of choice. We appreciate the tremendous engagement that community members and the Youth Council have invested in this ambitious undertaking.

Join us on April 6, to learn more, and to provide more input regarding our City’s future.

As we continue along the path to reinvigorating the Wisconsin Rapids area, it is important to keep in mind that redevelopment takes in more than bricks and mortar – we also must continue to replenish our creative spirit.

National Grants Support Arts Projects for Underserved Populations

The National Endowment for the Arts now offers an exciting opportunity for our active local arts community to develop even more cultural assets for residents and visitors.

The Arts Challenge America grant supports projects that extend the reach of the arts to populations limited by geography, ethnicity, economics or disability. Matching grants of $10,000 are available for professional arts programming and for projects that emphasize the potential of the arts in community development. The involvement of experienced artists and arts professionals is essential.

Grants are available for:

  • An arts event or events – festival; exhibition; literary reading; musical, theatrical, or multi-media performance; media screening; broadcast; or lecture – that features one or more guest artists, such as musicians, composers, conductors, actors, directors, dancers, choreographers, curators, visual artists, writers or media artists;
  • Unified promotion of community-wide arts activities and/or the development of cultural tourism products to enhance public engagement with arts and culture in communities, and in cultural districts; and
  • Development of visual arts projects, such as murals, sculptures, multi-media, or environmental art, developed through community involvement in the planning, design or fabrication of the work, with the participation of a professional lead artist.

Because partnerships can be valuable to the success of these projects, applicants are encouraged to consider collaborating with other organizations, both in and outside of the arts, as appropriate. Such relationships can help spread the cost of the required matching funds.

Challenge America artfully works hand-in-glove with our aspiration to become a community in which residents and visitors can come to expect a range of cultural and recreational experiences. I encourage members of our arts community and other interested stakeholders to look into this promising opportunity.

Application deadline for the Challenge America arts grant is Thursday, April 13. To learn more, call 202-682-5700, or visit  

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update: Master Plan for Mead Field Comes into Focus, City Seeks Developer for High-Potential Triangle Area Property, An important community asset, McMillan Library, offers valuable courses



Master Plan for Mead Field Recreational Resources Come into Focus

Photo by Tom Loucks/WR City Multimedia Coordinator – Mayor Zach Vruwink explains concepts of the Mead Complex Master Plan to visitors during Thursday evenings meeting at Mead School

A timeline for ground-breaking and public opening for a splash pad area adjacent to Mead Elementary Charter School, and exciting changes for the future of recreational resources at Mead Field both came into sharper focus last Thursday evening. That’s when the Mead Field Master Plan was revealed to residents who gathered at Mead Elementary School.

Photo by MSA – A concept of the splash pad in the Mead Complex. If you have ideas, please share at

We are thrilled that we will are planning to break ground on the splash pad area beginning in early May, with plans to open to the public in July.

During the gathering on Thursday, representatives from civic design consultant MSA Professional Services presented the proposed Mead Park Field splash park design. The presentation included highlights of design concepts generated by Mead School student leaders, some of whom were on hand for the event.

Photo by Tom Loucks/City of WR Multimedia Coordinator – Students gather around Mayor Zach Vruwink to show their support for the project.

We are grateful to the Legacy Foundation of Central Wisconsin, which has pledged to donate up to $500,000 to construct the splash pad at Mead Field. We deeply appreciate the Foundation’s investment in our City’s future. On a personal level, I look forward to the ongoing enthusiasm and creativity displayed by members of the Mayor’s Youth Council, who will play an important role in community fundraising efforts.

MSA staff also provided an introduction to the Mead Field Master Plan, including locations for the splash pad and ball fields, and portrayed an overall vision for future multi-use recreational capabilities that appeals to the needs of all age groups.

Photo by MSA – Mead Complex Masterplan

Mead Complex Details included:

  • Reconfiguration of the baseball fields to provide better participant access and allow for a central hub to facilitate multi-team tournament play;
  • Two new tennis courts to complement the four already available, development of a trail area.
  • Creation of spaces for visitors who simply want to enjoy a park experience;
  • Construction of an events building that would allow for year-round rentals; and
  • Open-air shelters that could be rented for special events;The presentation was followed by an open house with myself, City Council members and City staff, and MSA personnel, during which attendees could exchange comments and concerns.

On April 6, community members will have another opportunity to become aware and lend their voices to our City’s progress. At that time, MSA will present the Concept Master Plan for our other major project, the $8.5-million Witter Field aquatics center facility. We will provide more details as this significant event draws closer.

Keep in mind that what we have achieved thus far represents important “first steps”; there is much work left to do. But we can be encouraged that we are moving forward toward developing facilities that will put our City on the map as a local and regional destination for recreational fun.

For more photos of the Thursday event click, here, or a video click, here.

City Seeks Developer for High-Potential Triangle Area Property

After years of planning, our City’s revitalization of its historic Waterfront District has already changed the face of the Wisconsin Rapids Downtown area. Combined with renewed confidence resulting in a resurgence of tens of millions of dollars in economic activity ether spent or planned, our City remains poised for growth. Recognizing that important work still remains before the ultimate fulfillment of our goals, we continue to seek partners who will help us further the progress toward rejuvenating our Downtown area.

To that end, Wisconsin Rapids recently issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to redevelop the Triangle Area, located on the block bounded by 1st Street North (west and north), East Jackson Street (south) and Market Street (east). The Triangle serves as the northeast gateway to the Downtown area, overlooking the Wisconsin River and our beautiful public park spaces. It is ideally suited for a mixed-use development, which could include residential, office, retail, restaurant, convenience store/grocery, among other uses.

City conducts housing study to assess current market and potential, here.

To jumpstart this redevelopment project, the City last year purchased the former Spath and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) buildings, along with land on the other side of the block that included the former Labor Temple/Good Time Charlie’s Sports Bar. Since then, City crews have demolished the Spath, USDA and Good Time Charlie’s buildings. After demolition of the Good Time Charlie’s building, the City hired consultant Robert E. Lee and Associates to perform an environmental assessment, which revealed minor environmental issues. They are now completing Phase 2 environmental investigations, partially funded by a $150,000 Site Assessment Grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. Results are expected in a matter of weeks.

With all our recent initiatives and momentum, we are excited to offer this partnership opportunity, and we welcome developers to share with us their visions of sustainable residential, commercial and retail redevelopment.

You can find the Triangle Area Request for Proposal by visiting, or by calling Adam Tegen, Director of Community Development, at 715-421-8225.

An important community asset, McMillan Library, offers valuable courses

Today’s lifelong learners come in a range of ages, and with a variety of interests. For these individuals, McMillan Memorial Library Library  provides a free learning resource designed to transform lives and foster positive changes in our community.

Gale Courses engage learners with more than 350 instructor-led online courses that focus on professional development, technology skills and personal enrichment. These six-week courses are taught by college instructors and experts in the field to ensure high-quality, high-impact educational experiences.

Gale Courses are tied to the Bureau of Labor Statistics fastest-growing occupations and include:

  • Business professional support, including business law, human resources, management, manufacturing and marketing;
  • Computers and technology, from beginner to advanced;
  • Parenting, the arts and hobbies; and
  • Health and wellness.McMillan Library has prepared a list of classes of special interest to business people, job seekers and writers.The great advantage of Gale Courses is that this learning tool is right at your fingertips – you do not need to live in Wisconsin Rapids or Wood County to gain access. To get started on your educational journey, you simply need to have a LINK/McMillan Library card and designate McMillan as your home library.To check out the complete course catalog, or to sign up for a class, go here.

Let the learning begin!

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink