Community Update: “Building the future” begins with YMCA/BGC groundbreaking Wednesday, Mayor’s Youth Council seeks members to shape community’s future



“Building the future” begins with YMCA/BAGC groundbreaking Wednesday

The John E Alexander South Wood County YMCA and the Boys & Girls Club of the Wisconsin Rapids Area will literally begin “building futures together” this Wednesday, August 29. That’s when they break ground on their new shared facility at the former Rapids Mall at 555 W. Grand Avenue, which begins at 10 a.m.

The ceremony will include a color guard, followed by brief remarks from organization, government and philanthropic leaders. I have the honor of sharing in this occasion as a speaker, and to “pitch in” on the groundbreaking. Light refreshments will be available at the close of the 45-minute event.

The announcement last August that the local South Wood County Y and Boys & Girls Club planned to buy the Rapids Mall and convert it into a community health and fitness center was welcome and exciting news for this community. This 70,000-square-foot facility will include an aquatic center with competitive swimming lanes, lazy river and splash pad; group exercise studios with member lounge areas; childcare area and kids adventure center; teaching kitchen and community garden; community gathering space; indoor walking/jogging track; and a sports field for football and soccer.

In short, this new initiative provides a resource that is accessible and welcoming to children, families and seniors through programs that support their healthy development.

In addition, the realization of this facility will create impact, traffic and fits in with our goals for a more revitalized Downtown area. The project will also improve our overall quality of life- families with children having a world class facility before and after school, improve our physical and social well-being and for local businesses attraction and retention of employees in the Wisconsin Rapids area.

I invite all to join us this Wednesday morning and help us celebrate this exciting milestone.  If you can’t make you can watch the program being streamed LIVE on or through the City’s Wisconsin Rapids Community Media Department website at or cable channels.

Mayor’s Youth Council seeks members to shape community’s future

Photo submitted by the LWM – The League of Wisconsin Municipalities has recognized the Wisconsin Rapids Mayor’s Youth Council as a unique force that engages young people and inspires solutions that enhance a community’s quality of life.

Since forming the Mayor’s Youth Council in 2014, I have been honored to see this initiate blossom as a model for tapping the intelligence and enthusiasm of future leaders. These young people actively contribute to policy, service and recreation initiatives that make our community a better place in which to live, work and play.

Guided by a Youth Council Advisory Team and chaired by me, the Mayor’s Youth Council presents its recommendations and findings to Common Council committees and the public, administers surveys, and produces content for broadcast and online media.

Over a few short years, Mayor’s Youth Council participants have been at the forefront of issues important to our City, such as: fund-raising for projects like the proposed Aquatic Park at Witter Field, youth-led design of the splash pad at Mead Field and the annual 4th of July fireworks show; taking the lead in developing recreational events and proposals such as Kids to Parks Day and the Municipal Zoo Master Plan; and pitching in on beautification programs such as neighborhood cleanups and tree plantings.

Now, the work of the Mayor’s Youth Council has been recognized statewide. During its recent Chief Executives Workshop, the League of Wisconsin Municipalities praised the Youth Council as a unique force that engages young people and inspires quality-of-life solutions.

I encourage high-school students from Wisconsin Rapids, Nekoosa, Port Edwards, Rudolph and Vesper to apply for membership. More information is available here. Get together, and help take ownership of our community’s future!

Please read the City of Wisconsin Rapids news release for more information about the award, here.

Thanks for reading!

Mayor Zach Vruwink



Community Update: Rekindle the Spirit brings joy and color to the holiday season; A time to be thankful



Rekindle the Spirit brings joy and color to the holiday season

I invite all residents to gather Downtown on Wednesday, November 22. That is when the Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce gets everyone into the holiday spirit, with its annual Rekindle the Spirit Holiday Parade and Celebration.

The festivities begin at 5:45 p.m., with the lighting of decorations in Veteran’s Park, and then rolls into high gear with a colorful, musical parade that starts at the Rapids Mall parking lot and makes its way across Grand Avenue Bridge to 4th Street. After the parade, we invite all to make their way to Hotel Mead for a visit with Santa, live music, and hot chocolate and cookies.

Rekindle the Spirit offers fun for the entire family, so make plans to be on hand.

A time to be thankful

I want to personally thank all the volunteers and public servants throughout our community who have graciously devoted their time, expertise and generosity throughout the year to make Wisconsin Rapids a special place. Thanksgiving is a time to reflect and share compassion for all the little things in life that truly make a difference.  I am personally grateful.

For those who don’t have a thanksgiving meal, St Luke’s Lutheran Church will be serving a Thanksgiving dinner from noon to 1:00 pm on Thursday, November 23rd in its fellowship hall. The meal will be served at no charge to anyone in the community who is alone or who is not able to prepare the traditional meal for themselves.

Thanks for reading my blog,

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

Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings Host the Illiana Blackbirds This Weekend


riverkings- LogoThis weekend, Wisconsin Rapids’ newly launched junior hockey team- The Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings, will play their second home game stretch of the 2014/2015 season, by hosting the Illiana Blackbirds at the South Wood County Recreation Center.  Game Time will be at 7:30PM tonight (Friday,11/7/2014) where I have the honor of dropping the ceremonial puck to start the game. The Riverkings take the ice again at 7:30PM tomorrow (11/8/2014); and the Riverkings will close out their home stretch with a game at 12:00PM on Sunday (11/9/2014). Tickets are available at the door for only $5 for adults and $2 for anyone under 18.

The Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings are a Junior Hockey Team within the Minnesota Junior Hockey League.Riverkings- Team  The Riverkings are in their inaugural season, with “home ice” being the South Wood County Recreation Center.  As we begin our inaugural season in the Junior Hockey Organization, we have much to be proud of with our team and to look forward to this season and beyond.

For more information on the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings, visit their team website.  RCCA Media will be capturing video of game, to be aired next week, or on demand by following this link.

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Riverview and YMCA Announce Intent to build a new Wisconsin Rapids YMCA


It’s an exciting moment for Wisconsin Rapids!

Today, the Riverview Hospital Association and John E. Riverview CEO announces projectAlexander 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 DSC_0029with 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 DSC_2950 copycompliment 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. Wisconsin Rapids reaction to new YMCA announcement by Mayor Zach Vruwink 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