B.C. Kowalski/City Pages

Wausau on the Water brings laser tag, arcade games and family dining overlooking the Wisconsin River.

Walking into the newly completed Wausau on the Water Family Entertainment Center is like stepping back into the 1980s. Tabletop arcade games bleep out familiar sounds from old-school thrillers such as Pac-man; classic games like skee-ball and other fun stations line the walls.

A significant part of the city’s new East Riverfront project, WOW, which opened at the end of December, is the first flagship project to locate into the 16-acre development, transforming a once bleak, unused area of land into a modern, family entertainment complex just south of the Bridge Street Bridge.

And so far, people are enjoying that entertainment. The bar-dining room, with three giant 65-inch flat screen TVs, has been packed on Sundays, especially for the Packers’ playoff games, says Evan Greenwood, one of several Greenwood family members with partial ownership in WOW. “We’ve been slammed with business.”

The enormous bar came from the former Curly’s Pub at Lambeau Field—fans can literally touch a piece of Packers history as they watch the game.

WOW isn’t just for spectators. Those who want a more active experience can try laser tag in the 6,000-square-foot, multi-leveled facility. Today’s laser tag is similar to the blacklight game of the 1980s, but is far more advanced and way more challenging. Plus, the laser tag room just looks awesome— like the set of a science fiction movie, with colorful but dim lighting and futuristic sets.

Adjacent to the arcade and laser tag facility, the enormous dining room and Curly’s bar overlooks the Wisconsin River, with 180 table seats and another 35 at the bar. In the summer, Greenwood says, the outdoor patio will seat another 100-120 people.

Greenwood says they want to serve as much locally sourced food as possible, including bread from Kreger’s Bakery and Deli, meat from Townline Market, cheese curds from Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery, and Nueske’s bacon. They also plan to work with area farmers to source vegetables when the growing season starts. “It’s about the community to me, we want to be the best neighbors we can in business, and in the community,” Greenwood says.

Complementing the WOW building will be a number of public park projects in the next phase of the city’s riverfront plan. The restroom-concession stand, ropes course, fitness equipment and climbing wall are in the final design stages, with construction slated to begin this summer.