WAUPUN — The City of Waupun held a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday afternoon for the new “intergenerational” Community Center project, set to fill the combined role of a community and senior center facility.
The project was announced early last year when the City of Waupun received a nearly five million dollar grant from the Wisconsin Neighborhood Investment Fund for the construction of a new senior center.
Construction plans were completed by Cedar Corp in late 2022 and went through some revisions over the last year. Groundbreaking was originally scheduled for August but was postponed to September.
The groundbreaking ceremony began with some words from City Administrator Kathy Schlieve, before she turned the mic over to former mayor Julie Nickel.
“Today marks a significant day for the citizens of Waupun, and I am excited to be here to recognize this occasion with all of you and the current Common Council,” Nickel said. “When I left office in 2022, I had just made the announcement of the $4.9 million Neighborhood Investment Fund grant.”
According to Nickel, planning for that grant began in 2018, and they partnered with SSM Health to form the Waupun Community Coalition on Aging. Through a grant from the UW School of Nursing they worked on a number of community improvement programs including the creation of a facility advisory committee to improve the Waupun Senior Center.
“The Facility Advisory Committee held open houses, sought community input on facility needs and formulated community recommendations for the Common Council’s consideration. In February of 2020, the Waupun Common Council approved those recommendations that included constructing a new senior center, however we were uncertain of how we would fund a building of this type.”
“In August of 2021, Governor Tony Evers announced the Neighborhood Investment Fund grant,” Nickel continued. “The City was very fortunate at that time as we had several strong grant writers including Sarah Vanburen and Kathy Schlieve on staff. These two were able to write a successful application to secure that $4.9 million grant award through that program, making today possible.”
“I have had the opportunity to review the plans and I am so excited about the prospect of what this facility will mean for this community. It will not only serve the needs of our seniors but will benefit residents of all ages for generations to come,” Nickel said.
Former mayor Nickel concluded by thanking Waupun City staff, SSM Health, the Waupun Community Coalition on Aging, the Facility Advisory Committee, seniors and residents who provided input, and the Common Council.
The mic was then turned over to the current Mayor of Waupun, Rohn Bishop.
“As we bring this facility online, our plans include expansion of the hours of operation and programming to meet the needs of all generations,” Mayor Bishop said. “Both Waupun Food Pantry and REACH Waupun will be tenants of the building, bringing community resources together for the first time under one roof.”
“You may be wondering why we have elected to call this the Waupun Community Center when the City already has a building as a community center,” he said. “This facility design encourages the type of activity you would see in a traditional community center with year-round access, unlike our current facility. As far as renaming the current facility, the City will continue to work with Waupun Hockey on their full replacement project and is in full discussion with selling naming rights to that building to support needed capital improvements.”
According to Mayor Bishop they have discovered over $700,000 in uncovered expenses, followed by the announcement of a capital campaign to fundraise to cover that amount. The Mayor went on to thank Mike Werner of Werner-Harmsen for his generous $100,000 donation towards the project, represented by Werner-Harmsen president Tyler Schultz.
Following another round of acknowledgements, the various committees posed for pictures for the groundbreaking ceremony.
The facility will be just over 22,000 square feet, which is over five times the size of the current facility. It will include a variety of amenities including a state-of-the-art senior center facility, a multipurpose event space, a billiards room, a fitness center, and a full gym with pickleball courts. Half of the building will also be rented out to REACH Waupun and the Waupun Food Pantry.