Home to 20 city parks, six golf courses, seven area lakes and an abundance of biking, hiking, birding and watersport opportunities, Wisconsin Rapids is finding itself emerging as a recreation hot spot—not to mention, a premier destination for accessible aquatic activity.
The community’s 2012 Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (CORP) identified a three-phase approach to expanding its recreational programming. Phase three — and perhaps the city’s crowning achievement to date — was the development of a $12 million regional aquatic center and recreational park complex at Witter Field.
For generations, Wisconsin Rapids residents had gathered at one of two outdoor public pools. After one closed due to age and deterioration — then the other — the community clamored for a replacement. But, not just any replacement. The new, Wisconsin Rapids Recreation Complex (WRCC) and Aquatic Center would create accessible, all-season recreation for people of all ages, abilities and comfort levels and restore a vibrant aquatic culture within the heart of central Wisconsin.
MSA and the City of Wisconsin Rapids first embarked upon a companion project, the design and construction of a splash pad at Mead Field, in 2017. The completion and success of the splash pad fast-tracked the broader mission and amped up community fundraising efforts for the aquatic center, leading to the official ground-breaking of the project in May of 2019.
MSA was chosen to lead the design of the facility—a complex and ambitious project that was completed just over one year later, in June of 2020. The WRCC offers something for everyone: three pools including a tot pool with two water slides, spray features and a tot lazy river; a leisure pool with play area, basketball hoops, water walk, lazy river with a “rapids” action channel, tube water slide, plunge pool and body water slide; and a recreation pool that features basketball hoops, lap swimming, a zip line feature, diving board and climbing wall.
The main aquatic center building and bath house is a clean, modern design—home to an admissions lobby, concessions, community gathering room and changing rooms. Outside, visitors can stroll the well-lit, landscaped property on pedestrian paths, lounge along the pool deck under colorful shade structures, sun themselves on a grass sunbathing berm or picnic within an airy park shelter. For those looking for more activity, a new zero-depth splash pad, tennis and pickleball courts, playground and skate park provide plentiful opportunities.
The park was also designed to accommodate winter use, with the bath house lobby converting into a warming shelter in cold weather, the circular vehicular drop-off zone transforming into a recreational ice skating venue, and a separate area designated as a place to host low-board hockey.
The City of Wisconsin Rapids has stepped up to the financial challenge of the $12 million project and undertaken a great deal of grassroots fundraising themselves. They also received significant matching support from local foundations and from small donations from residents and businesses across the region. Methodical, forward-thinking leadership and community-driven support was a significant factor in the immense success of this project.
The community celebrated the grand opening of the Wisconsin Rapids Recreation Complex (WRCC) and Aquatic Center on July 1, 2020, and invited some very enthusiastic guests into the facility in limited numbers on July 6. Congratulations to the entire region for embarking upon this significant and exciting project!