Progress is set to resume very soon on the new Municipal Aquatic Center at the MARC.
According to Parks and Recreation Director Dan Wendorf, due to the rather late onset of winter, crews from contractor Miron Construction were able to work up until Dec. 31, and are currently well ahead of schedule.
As a result, the 7,400-sq. ft. swimming pool is now finished, the pool house is very nearly finished with just minor finishing work to be completed and all of the additional amenities are ready for installation.
“The physical footprint of the facility is complete,” Wendorf said. “Now it’s just a matter of finishing the amenities. The vortex play area and splash pad will probably be the most time consuming, of the remaining work to be done. Provisions have been made for the diving boards, rock climbing wall and shade structures. Now it’s just a matter of assembling and installing them.”
Once the center is complete, yet another time consuming task awaits; that of a 30-day extensive training period. As part of the training, Parks and Rec. staff will learn everything there is to know about their new 12,000-sq. ft. facility, including functionality, maintenance, trouble shooting and emergency procedures.
“Construction is expected to resume in April,” Wendorf adds. “Our projected open-date is June 10. But if Mother Nature cooperates and we can continue to move along with construction like we did last fall, we could be open as early as late May for a few afternoons after-school.”
The center’s roots date back to the spring of 2014 when the city began looking at options to open another municipal swimming pool, replacing the former pool at Stange’s Park.
The new Municipal Aquatic Center will feature a 6-lane competition lap pool, a diving well with 1-meter and 3-meter diving boards and additional amenities for all ages including a climbing wall, basketball, tethered floatables, zero-depth entry area, 10 vertical spray heads, 3-wide family slide, splash structure with five tipping buckets, play structure with “kiddie” slide, water gun, two water curtains, fountains, and a tipping bucket, in-water seating with shade cover, shaded seating on the deck area, and two-flume waterslide with run-outs.
Grass roots fundraising for the estimated $4.5 million project kicked off last March and in May, Miron Construction of Neenah was selected as the contractor for the project with a winning base bid of $3,605,500.
Last summer, the Bierman Family Foundation was recognized for its pivotal $4 million donation to the center, during a groundbreaking ceremony hosted by city officials.
Pool passes are now available at the Smith Center. The cost of a season pass for Merrill residents is $100 and non-resident passes are $130.
As Wendorf explains, a family pass covers four members of an immediate family residing in the same household.
Day passes will be $4/per person for those ages 2-61. Children under 2 are free.
Current military and prior-service veterans as well as visitors over age 62 will receive a special rate of $2/per person for a day pass.
Tentative pool hours will be Noon-7 p.m., Monday-Saturday and 1-4 p.m. on Sundays.
“In trying to decide on reasonable prices, I spoke with over 40 different communities to see what they charged for pool and aquatic center admission,” Wendorf said. “I wanted to be at or below the pricing of surrounding communities. Our prices ultimately ended up being well below the area average and very competitive.
“Revenue generated from the pass fees will help offset the overall operating cost of the aquatic center,” Wendorf explains further. “The more people we have visit and utilize the pool, the more revenue we can generate and the more we can offset our costs.
“I want to emphasize this will not be a ‘for-profit’ business. This is a quality-of-life service we are providing to the community. We most likely will not even break even in terms of revenue versus operating and maintenance cost, but these fees will certainly help. This facility will be a tremendous asset to our community as well as those in outlying communities. For example, once the aquatic center is open, we will be saving people in communities north of us, 30-plus minutes of travel time to facilities in the Wausau area.
“An ancillary benefit is the potential revenue our local restaurants and merchants may generate from those visiting the aquatic center from out of town. Rather than having to travel further to enjoy an outdoor aquatic center, those folks can visit ours and in turn, eat shop and enjoy our beautiful city.”