Published Date: March 15, 2023
By Line: Travis Nyhus
Published in: Chronotype

With three groups on board, progress for the Aquatic and Recreation Center in Rice Lake is moving along.

The Rice Lake Aquatics and Recreation Center nonprofit, Rice Lake Area School District and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Barron County have all voted to move forward on a two-phase project.

“Now we’re reaching that tipping point where we’ve got everything in line and multiple involved parties involved,” said Amy Muminovic, RLARC board member. “There’s a lot of dedication to make this happen — from the school district, the Boys and Girls Club and the Aquatic and Recreation Center board. We’re all doing everything we can to make this a reality.”

This month the project is accepting bids with a goal of construction to begin early this summer, although that is dependent on supplies, Muminovic said. There’s been a focus on finding local suppliers and resources, even working with business for their donations to be in the form of their work on the project.

“We are really keeping that at the forefront of this project, to make sure we included the community and the community businesses that are going to be involved,” she said.

A projected completion date at this point is October 2024, and that will also be the start of phase 2 of the project, which includes demolition of the current pool and the beginning of construction of a Boys and Girls Clubs of Barron County/Recreation Center.

After private funding and grants the RLARC will be taking on debt to cover the remaining cost. Partnering with the Boys and Girls Clubs provides access to additional grants, while the project could receive a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant if the facility can be configured to serve as a storm shelter.

The Recreation Center will have two gyms and an elevated walking track and community rooms, along with space for the Boys and Girls Clubs. The Aquatics Center will include both competition and recreation pools for expanded programming, providing access for physical education classes or youth swimming practices at the same time as community use for therapy and exercise.

“If we just want a competition pool, we’ve got that, if that’s all we want,” Muminovic said. “If all we’re looking to accomplish is sports, we fix the old pool, we’re done.

“But that’s not what we’re looking for, we’re looking to expand to the community and make sure the community has access to it even when the kids are playing sports or practicing.”

The current pool is inefficient and in need of repairs, and it doesn’t meet the needs of the community when it comes to recreation and therapy, Muminovic said. While the current pool meets some of the athletics needs its lower capacity provides limited space for youth swim meets or other multi-team events.

The Aquatics Center will have the capacity to host larger meets. There’s a viewing deck specific for families to spectate when their child is in competition Direct access to both the Recreation Center and Hilltop Elementary provides a place for teams and spectators to gather when not actively competing.

“These big meets we can do more of them, and we can host people comfortably,” Muminovic said.

The pool will have multiple locker rooms with separate spaces for kids in physical education class and adults accessing the pool for recreation. There will be a high school team locker room near the competition pool and for the community pool there will be private family changing rooms. There will be also be a wet activity room for use of parties and other functions, and a zero-entry system and railing allows access for those of all ages.

“We’re trying to be judicious about the finishes that we’re picking,” Muminovic said. “Obviously we could have a Taj Mahal, we could have a really upscale facility, but that’s not what we need in the community. We need it to have function and we need it to have materials that are low-cost and easy maintenance.”

An interior rendering of the Rice Lake Aquatics Center provided by JLG Architects.

An interior rendering of the Rice Lake Aquatics Center provided by JLG Architects.

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