The Hodag Schools Foundation (HSF) is pleased to announce they have surpassed their $2 million goal in improvements for the Hodag Dome and Complex.
HSF set out to work with donors and the School District to help raise money toward the indoor and outdoor improvements, which now will be a reality this fall. HSF envisions these improvements to be similar to what happened in 1958 when the High School was built, which helped Rhinelander emerge as an educational leader in the state. HSF has issued several press releases in the past 18 months since Dr. Lee Swank’s generous gift initiated the project, and there will be additional in the next few months. HSF sincerely thanks all donors mentioned in past press releases, and the School District has provided naming right opportunities. HSF is also grateful for all private donations. The Dr. Lee Swank donor wall in the new complex will list the names of donors gifting $1,000 and above. Dave Heck, President of HSF noted, “In these uncertain times, we are thrilled to provide positive news. We are so thankful to all donors that made this happen. In addition, we are grateful for the School Board and Administration commitment to make this investment for the future of Rhinelander. Mike Roberts has done a great job on the capital projects design, and Ron Counter and fellow school board members have provided leadership to help this become a reality. We thank Brian Paulson, D.J. DeMeyer and softball including Tim Musson, and also thank Superintendent Kelli Jacobi for her help on this project and congratulate Kelli on her retirement. As she moves into retirement, the Dome complex will also be a great springboard for the new Superintendent Eric Burke to help take Rhinelander to another level.”
The permanent Dome structure will be one of a kind, and it will be up year round and able to provide substantial benefits for students, the community, and the economy of northern and central Wisconsin. Heck stated, “In our research, Ron Counter, Mike Roberts, Brian Paulson and I took several tours viewing facilities. After visiting a Dome in Minneapolis, we got in the car and were in absolute awe of what a facility of this type could do for our community. And not just for activities. In fact, the first thing the Principal said from the district we visited was how much of a mental health improvement they saw in kids due to being able to see green grass and increased light. Instead of being stuck inside during the cold and dark in the winter with electronics, kids can play, get active, learn and use these facilities.”
Mike Roberts, HSF board member and school board member commented, “We found that a permanent Dome structure is much more cost effective than a metal building. It can be much larger yet be more efficient, addressing space needs. The space will allow us to host tournaments and trade shows, providing incredible civic use, and help for students. The Hodag Dome will greatly help in all forms of activities, learning, involvement, and benefit the community.”
The following attributes reflect on the improvements:
Heck believes the new space will benefit SDR students and the whole Rhinelander community. He continues, “Most schools we have seen have much more inside dedicated space for students for learning and activities, Rhinelander never did until now. Thus, it will truly help Rhinelander students. However, it will also benefit our community since many other schools, groups, and teams have inquired about facility use. Economically, it is estimated that these improvements will bring in over $1 million annually to our area from restaurants, hotels, movie theatre, gas station, and the like. Rhinelander, “the Hub of the Northwoods”, will likely see a dramatic improvement in economic progress with these facilities. This will not only help students but also attract and retain families and businesses. The economic, social and health challenges are driving people across the country to ask themselves where they want to live, move, or stay; the Hodag Dome will be a great asset for people to consider Rhinelander as their destination for learning, activity and community in the future. It will be amazing and truly differentiate and help Rhinelander.”
Brian Paulson, board member of HSF and Activities Director, commented, “We have heard from districts and teams throughout the state of how this is great for Rhinelander – and they want to be part of it. Already, we have scheduled a 12-team invitation for wrestling in December, a possible 17-team tournament for softball in March, and April softball/soccer tournaments. This is only a start – we have had colleges contact us to use this facility. Because there is nothing like this anywhere close, this will not only benefit our students and community, but will draw in visitors to support Rhinelander’s economy.”
Ron Counter, President of the Board of Education noted, “With the Covid issues and economic hardships, we all need positive news and the timing of these improvements will provide Rhinelander a great benefit. In addition, we feel this will help enrollment trends, which in turn, bring in more state aid to our District. The Hodag Dome will also help attract and retain teachers – as we improve enrollment, additional state aid can help in teacher pay versus our peers. We have already seen interest from teachers outside the area and want to always attract and retain the best teachers to help our students and community.”
HSF and the Rhinelander School District are planning an Open House / Dome Dedication in the fall and excited to provide a positive and incredible benefit and asset to the community. Yet, even with all of these great improvements, there is still room to make progress. In relation to the sports courts, which can interchange court surfaces between basketball, volleyball, and tennis; the total costs have not been fully funded in the original bid. Therefore, HSF is still raising money to help the District. Donors providing $1,000 and up are able to get their name on the donor wall and help fund these court improvements. Further, indoor golf improvements are being discussed. If you are interested in helping fund these additional improvements, please contact HSF.