Editor-in-chief Andy Hanacek spoke with Ken Weinaug, Executive Director for Jack Link’s Aquatic & Activity Center, about the new fitness and activity center and what it brings to the community.

Andy Hanacek: Ken, thanks for letting me tour the Jack Link’s Aquatic & Activity Center. Not yet open but opening very soon. I wanted to get your take on what this means for the community here. Obviously this is a community centric initiative by Jack Link’s. It’s not for employees only. It’s for everyone in the community. What does this mean for the community here?

Ken Weinaug: The community is very excited for this to open. It offers so many more opportunities than there are now. For example, just the swimming pool alone. The closest pool outside of a hotel pool is about 45 miles away. There are some hotel pools that are closer, but typically they are very small hotel pools that you see anywhere else. We have the opportunity here to teach swim lessons, offer water aerobics. We have a play structure for kids to play on and families to do things together in the pool area. We can do some unique things. We’ve got some log rollers that are interested in practicing and doing classes here too. It gives a real good Northwoods feel. Fitness centers are the same way. The closest real fitness center to here is about 20 miles away. So having a fitness center here gives them an opportunity to do things they haven’t been able to do before. We’ve got some community spaces as well, so for family events like graduation parties, birthday parties, we’ve got a couple of high schools that want to do proms here. Meeting space for larger groups that isn’t available here either, and again it’s about things that families can do together under one roof as a unit that this building provides an opportunity to do. 

Hanacek: It hasn’t opened yet, of course, but what are your expectations in terms of the sheer number of people that might take advantage and/or be affected by this?

Weinaug: We’ve already sold some annual memberships. We’ve got over a 100 people who already set up accounts that they just need to provide payment information and they will be members. People are already putting their faith in us to provide something that isn’t even open yet. That’s the level of excitement that’s here. They want to be a part of this before we are even open.

Hanacek: You don’t have to give me an exact number, but are we talking about thousands of people in the area that could take advantage of this? Tens of thousands? I don’t know the Northwoods as well as I maybe should. What kind of potential capacity population-wise?

Weinaug: The population is 527 here according to the sign. We have about 500 people employed at the plant, and in the surrounding area, we expect to draw people from Hayward, which is just under 20 miles away, to some of the smaller communities. People in cabins who come early for the summer. People who come up for hunting and snowmobiling and those kind of activities. We expect they will use the place as well. We have a pretty big draw area. The closest water park with a play structure in it is about 45 miles away. We have a lot of draw area that we can draw from. This is going to be a regional thing once we’re up and running.

Hanacek: From a meat business side of the equation, what are the expectations for Jack Link’s to get out of it other than giving back to the community? Are you hoping this creates some goodwill or is this just something that the link family feels really should do?

Weinaug: It really is about giving back to the community that supported them the last 40 years that Jack Link’s has been a company. Giving back to the community and the benevolence of that and the philanthropy of building a center like this and giving back to the community. It’s about providing opportunities for the families in the region. It’s a big gift. It’s a big deal for this area to have something like this built in a town of 527 people. There’s not many in the state of Wisconsin who can count on one hand that have a facility like this with a population this size.