Whitewater Park upgrades will bring global competition back to Wausau, committee hopes

By:  Laura Schulte, USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

The committee behind the improvements to the Whitewater Park course is aiming to bring world-class kayaking talent back to the city by moving forward with the next phase of construction. 

The Wausau Kayak/Canoe Corp. is hoping to host another World Cup or Junior World Championship when the competition returns to the U.S. in 2022, according to a Thursday news release. 

The last time an international competition was held at the course was in 2012, when the International Canoe Federation Junior & U23 Canoe Slalom World Championships were held in the park. The competition brought hundreds of athletes and thousands of spectators from all over the world to Wausau and about $1.8 million in economic effect. 

The first phase of the improvements was completed last summer, adding updated walkways to both sides of the course, updated landscaping, improved seating, increased safety for boaters and access ramps for disabled boaters, the release said. 

Now the corporation is looking toward the second phase of construction, which will repair and upgrade water features that have deteriorated from years of erosion, movement and flooding. The release said that these improvements are necessary for high levels of performance, and will likely cost over $186,000. The Corporation hasn't yet released a date for the beginning of phase two.

After the second phase can be completed, the corporation will look to phase three, which will entail the addition of a pedestrian bridge, linking the trails along the east and west sides of the whitewater course, the release said. The total cost of the years-long project is estimated to be about $1 million, which is raised by the organization. 

The committee hopes that the improvements will help to keep the course competitive with others throughout the world, making Wausau a destination for kayakers, and in turn, attracting tourism impact dollars to the community, the release said. 

Whitewater Park opened in 1974 in downtown Wausau, and starts underneath the Stewart Street bridge. The course is about a third of a mile long and is used by paddlers during competitions and for recreation during the summer months. 

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