(First published in the July 19, 2018 issue of City Pages)
Across the street from Wausau Center mall, the Masonic Lodge sits unused and mostly unnoticed. But the large downtown space may soon be filled with coffee, tap beers and live music. For years, Kelly Ballard, her husband Brad, and Kelly’s sister Leslie Patterson have been developing a business strategy for an Americana music venue. And for the past year those plans called for locating it in the Masonic Lodge building.
Ballard and Patterson unveiled those plans Monday night after requesting a liquor license from the city. Wausau’s Public Health & Safety Committee approved Whitewater Music Hall for the beer and liquor license, which allows the group to finalize funding.
Kelly Ballard relocated her entire family from Texas to Wausau several years ago. “Half of why we moved here is for the water” she explains, citing the kayaking course as inspiration for the name of the venue. She loves the area, but misses the robust music scene of the south.
The Masonic building is ideal. At 19,000 square feet, it can hold 500 people for concerts and is an easy walk to the rest of downtown Wausau and the Wisconsin River. They anticipate hosting local bands on weekdays with weekends showcasing regional and national Americana, singer-songwriter and bluegrass acts. Drawing on her experiences working at Patina Coffeehouse, Ballard also hopes to serve coffee in the morning.
This isn’t the first time a Masonic building has been transformed into a space for art and entertainment. In Des Moines, the former Masonic Temple was renovated into Temple for the Performing Arts, a lively downtown space with a theater, restaurants and offices.
If everything goes smoothly, the group is slated to close on the Masonic Lodge building in October, and after renovations, open January 2019. More windows, a beer garden, a deck and murals are all part of the vision.