Damakant Jayshi

Talks surrounding a proposed concert venue for Wausau are continuing with city officials reaching out to consultants from across the country to assess the project’s feasibility.

Development Director Liz Brodeck told the Wausau Economic Development Committee on Wednesday that the city is waiting for responses from about a dozen different consultants to conduct a study for The River, a new large-scale concert venue under consideration.

“Once we get those responses back, we will review what they look like and make sure that they are going to address the things that need addressed,” Brodek said.

Staff will narrow options to about three or four before sharing names with the developer for the project. The developer, VY Properties, LLC, will vet applicants and choose a consultant to work with. Brodek said the city will put money in escrow “that the consultants would be paid out of to kind of avoid that conflict of interest, you know, the project paying for the consultation.”

On June 6, members of the Wausau Economic Development Committee directed staff to hold talks with VY Properties to firm up details and conduct an independent feasibility study on the demand for and sustainability potential of the 3,500-capacity concert venue proposed. Wausau resident Joe Ellis, of JEM Productions, and Anna Herman are co-owners of the proposed venture.

Finance Director Maryanne Groat said the developer should pay for such a study and the committee agreed.

During apresentation last month, Ellis and Herman emphasized their local roots and said Wausau needs the concert venue to boost tourism and the city’s economy. Ellis said there are 1.8 million people within 100 miles of the city who could be drawn to shows at The River, then stay in the city – generating income for hotels, restaurants and other Wausau attractions. The space could also host corporate conferences and will be home to additional retail and dining experiences on the riverfront. 

They said they expect an annual attendance of about 250,000 at The River, which would cost about $15 million to build and bring in an estimated $53 million in annual spending.

The project is not without its critics. During last month’s meeting, Sean Wright, the executive director of The Grand Theater, termed the project a “pipe dream.” He said the proposal’s figures are not realistic, questioning the claim that The River could draw top artists to the city as well as projected annual sales of 250,000 tickets, a number he called “outrageous.”

Wright also expressed concerns that the second concert venue would have “a negative, substantial impact to The Grand.”

Responses are due July 11.