HODAG DOME COMPLEX FACT SHEET OVERVIEW
Overview of Hodag Dome:
Rhinelander High School was built in 1958 and at the time, was one of the better schools for
facilities and academics in the state. However, over decades – did not add to facility space and
as community and number of activities grew, the facilities deteriorated and very few
improvements were made, with the exception of the 2010 referenda which main focus was on
lighting, roofing, asbestos. Private money helped improvements in gymnasium, pool,
auditorium, fitness center; however, no additional space was created.
Most School Districts and communities have more dedicated indoor facility space in the form of
a field house, gymnasiums, and activity space. Rhinelander does not have these spaces and has
a much more difficult climate than many of the schools in the state. Even schools around
Rhinelander with similar climates, such as Eagle River and Ashland, made major additions and
improvements for their facility space in the last few decades.
Rhinelander has the best of all four seasons: summer, spring, fall, and winter. Yet the
spring/winter has become very difficult to utilize outdoor space from October through May.
Minnesota has 36 Domes versus 3 in Wisconsin – none in northern Wisconsin. Many of the
Domes in Minnesota are in the Minneapolis area, which has a similar climate to Rhinelander. In
combination, most domes are seasonal domes which means they are put up and taken down
around the winter months, as land use can be limited. The Hodag Dome will be a permanent
dome and the land configuration is an incredible asset for how it complements the schools and
The Hodag Dome will provide community space for students, the community, and senior citizens
in our area. Exercise and engagement of students shows a direct link between academic success
and better cognitive skills, and improved mental health.
The Hodag Dome is estimated to be similar to what happened in 1958 when the High School was
built, which helped Rhinelander emerge as a destination school in the state.
Previously, students had to practice until 10:00 p.m. at night or travel to other communities to
practice. The Hodag Dome will help reduce the challenges of year round practice and
competition, which in turn provides more family time and opportunities for activity success.
The Hodag Dome will provide facility space for community events for trade shows, community
gatherings, public events, and so many more benefits utilizing this space.
The Hodag Dome will provide many cost benefits that are substantially less than a seasonal
dome or a metal building. In addition, the Hodag Dome provides the ability to be divided into
smaller areas, so several groups can utilize it simultaneously.
The Hodag Dome complex will be the largest high school Dome in the country with 128,000+
square feet. In addition, the Hodag Dome will be one of the largest air supported domes in all of
North America, and in the top 10% of the entire world to include turf for soccer, football, track,
pole vaulting, baseball, softball, tennis courts, pickle ball courts, basketball and seasonal
The Hodag Dome will be the largest permanent dome in multiple states – and one of the few
that can host softball or soccer tournaments inside in the winter months, while also hosting
tennis meets and other community events.
The Hodag Dome will have four permanent tennis courts, which will be lined for pickle ball,
which is a growing activity for all ages. Further – the courts will have interchangeable sport
court surfaces to allow for basketball and volleyball to take place within an hour to add on the
court surfaces or remove. This will help all of these sports and help host tournaments. The
Hodag Dome will truly be unique as Rhinelander may be able to host a soccer tournament and a
regional tennis tournament at the same time.
The Hodag Dome will have 168 LED lights and natural light, which will provide a bright and
accessible facility. With winter and dark/cold days – being able to see light, green grass, and
use a facility helps in mental health and helps senior citizens being able to walk and exercise
away the cold.
The Hodag Dome will have a high-level air exchange system always pumping in air to keep the
air clean. The Hodag Dome will have 6,678,000 volume of cubic feet for ventilation thus the
building will have vents open providing approximately 1 air exchange every 4 ½ hours and the
fresh air rate is 24 hours a day. Thus, when the Dome is unoccupied, the entire volume of the
Dome will be more and more filled with fresh air effectively multiplying the ventilation rate.
Additionally, the Air Rotation Technology in the design of air movement will have an effective
method of ventilating all of the air in the dome without ductwork. Normally up to 70% of air in
an occupied building is stagnant and not replaced with the fresh air. The Hodag Dome Air
Rotation System mixes virtually 100% of the air in the dome to get air changes. With the current
and health issues in mind, clean air with the exchange system, and filtration along with a
spacious facility to provide social distancing are all helpful.
Further, the Hodag Dome has a combination of snow, wind, and pressure sensors to
automatically increase the pressure and warm up the membrane when the weather turns cold
or icy to be able to melt off the snow/ice from the Dome to control and reduce the weight on
The Hodag Dome will have Wi-Fi to be able to have participant access to use phones / video /
and for tournaments.
The Hodag Dome is estimated to bring in substantial economic benefits to the Rhinelander
community via tournaments, which will help restaurants, hotels, gas stations, etc. Further, the
Hodag Dome will be a major attraction and retention for families and businesses in our area. As
an example, the WIAA has already made inquiries about the potential to host State
Tournaments if regular venues are unavailable.
The Hodag Dome will have key features for the community. Two indoor softball fields can be
utilized back to back at the same time for leagues. In addition to the year-round tennis and
pickle ball usage, two golf simulators along with practice area for golf can be used for
community members, as well as the track for walking and exercise.
The Hodag Dome will help bring open enrollment back to Rhinelander, which in turn, will help
provide more income back to the District to reinvest in teacher salaries, facilities, and marketing
of the school. With the Covid issues and economic hardships, everyone needs positive news and
the timing of these improvements will provide Rhinelander a great benefit. In addition, the
potential improved enrollment trends can bring in more state aid to our District. The Hodag
Dome will also help attract and retain teachers – as Rhinelander improves enrollment,
additional state aid can help in teacher pay versus our peers. Rhinelander has already seen
interest from teachers outside the area, which complements the goal of always attracting and
retaining the best teachers to help our students and community.
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.
Overview of Hodag Dome Outside:
The Hodag Dome Complex offers many improvements outside with softball fields, a baseball
field, and practice fields for soccer, football, and community use. In the past, the land behind
the high school had water drainage issues and was not used year round. Now the considerable
land the Rhinelander School District has will be efficiently utilized for the outdoor space.
Rhinelander has much more land per capita than many other schools. Where many schools
utilize a seasonal dome or metal building for facility needs, a Dome is more cost effective versus
metal buildings by 1/3 rd to 1/4 of the cost, and metal buildings need to be configured by joining
the current school, which would add costs and impact the busing loop and create
location/pavement costs and issues. However, for a permanent Dome, a school needs the
proper land configuration with enough land to utilize, which Rhinelander has in comparison to
The land where the Hodag Dome complex and softball fields are located was land that was
rarely used because of drainage issues. Through the school planning and Parks Force Task plan
by the City, the land was identified to relocate the softball fields. Almost 2,800 loads of fill were
brought in from Musson Brothers to provide enough dirt and landscaping to build a base under
the Dome and help fill the land for softball and activity use.
The concession stand that was just opened in 2019 provides a nice backbone to the Dome with
new bathrooms and a kitchen area to serve concessions and food/drink.
A new building constructed in front of the concession building will be welcoming visitors to the
Hodag Dome and will have a special Donor Wall in Dr. Lee Swank’s name honoring all donors
who contributed to the Dome complex. The building will also provide a gathering area and an
office for the Dome manager.
New lighting and security will complement the outside area with 35 light poles lights added in
for proper lighting for students and the community in addition to security cameras for safety.
Parking was added with 70 stalls in the east lot and 110 stalls in the west lot for a total of 180
stalls, including 6 handicapped stalls. Previously there was little to any parking around the
stadium and the stadium was not lighted behind the football stadium. Now, the outdoor
improvements will provide visibility and accessibility.
The addition of two softball fields at the high school will allow Pioneer Park to remove softball,
which can help open up this park space to allow a better park environment for Rhinelander, as it
currently is crowded.
The Mike Webster stadium pavers put in by the Hodag Facilities (Schools) Foundation in 2004
were preserved and now provide a new walkway with the Mike Webster arches. In 2019,
artificial turf was added as previously, there were improvements to the track and field with
private money however, due to the climate, this field was torn up and was not efficient. Now,
community events such as graduation, games, and other practices can be held at the Stadium.
Several old buildings were removed to add in parking and space.
Landscaping and concrete was carefully planned and laid out to provide a walking trail usable by
the students and community for a pleasant tour all around the Hodag Sports Complex. These
features seamlessly connect the High School and Middle School campuses.
The Hodag Schools Foundation (HSF) is pleased to accept a contribution from Aspirus for the Hodag
Dome complex. Aspirus, which was recently named an IBM Watson Top 15 health system for the third
year in a row, views the contribution as an important investment in our local Rhinelander community.
Once completed, the dome will provide the region with fitness opportunities throughout the year.
“We’re very happy to play a role in bringing this excellent facility to the area,” noted Jesse Tischer,
Aspirus Senior Vice President & President of Regional Markets. “Aspirus is about more than healing
people. This project is a perfect way to show that we also promote health and wellness while
strengthening our communities.”
The Hodag Schools Foundation has stated 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.
“Athletics and activities are a vital element in our school systems,” said Robb Fabich, Aspirus Regional
Clinic Director. “The Hodag Dome will enhance the area school system, which will help attract and retain
quality medical professionals to the area. This is one more way that Aspirus can help make a difference
in people’s lives outside the traditional health care setting.”
Ron Counter, President of the Board of Education noted, “We sincerely appreciate the Aspirus donation
to the Hodag Dome which will help the Rhinelander School District. The donation toward the dome
complex complements other donations to help support the Rhinelander school district and community
including the Aspirus Community Fitness Center, the Aspirus School Clinic, and continued ongoing
support for our community.”
The Hodag Dome is expected to be finished in the next several months. HSF and the Rhinelander School
District are planning an open house and dedication in the fall.
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.
Amidst the widespread disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and with the utmost concern for the health of our alumni and community members, HSF has made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 All Class Reunion.
We look forward to seeing you all AUGUST 14, 2021.
Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) Foundation has awarded Hodag Schools Foundation (HSF) a
$25,000 grant for the new Hodag Sports Complex. Leah Van Zile, senior communications
specialist – WPS, explains, “The new Hodag Sports Complex embodies the concept of
community, health and education, and will have a lasting impact on generations to come. WPS
strives to be a positive force for responsible growth in our regional economies, and through the
WPS Foundation, we continue to support the communities we serve.”
Incorporated in 1964, WPS Foundation is the philanthropic entity for WPS and other
subsidiaries of its holding company, WEC Energy Group. The foundation provides charitable
contributions to local communities while WPS is focused on providing safe, reliable electricity
and natural gas to its 450,000 customers in northeastern Wisconsin. The foundation is funded
by shareholders, not by WPS customers.
WPS Foundation supports organizations involved in community and neighborhood
development, education, environment, human services and health, and arts and culture. WPS
employees live, work and actively participate in the communities they serve, demonstrating a
personal commitment to safety, health and wellness as a way of life.
Van Zile continues, “The Hodag Sports Complex complements our company’s focus on health
and wellness. With the extended winter weather in the Northwoods, there is an increased need
for access to indoor recreation spaces. The Hodag Sports Complex offers a space for fun and
fitness year-round. Bringing additional sporting and business venues to the Rhinelander area
can positively impact businesses throughout the Northwoods. WPS Foundation is pleased to be
part of this legacy.”
Carole Zierden, HSF board member and retired School District of Rhinelander teacher, admits,
“I have never been happier with the all the donations from businesses and individuals — in
addition to this generous grant — to make the dome happen in Rhinelander. As a spring coach
for the past 17 years, I am looking forward to this marvelous new facility for our youth and
athletics, where they can practice for many years to come.”
Superintendent Kelli Jacobi notes, “Many thanks to HSF for writing this proposal and to the
WPS Foundation for granting the money. The grant is directed toward the Hodag Schools
Foundation which, in turn, gives the money to SDR to help fund the dome project. The facility
improvements are designed to benefit the entire community and will help attract students and
families, which in turn, brings state aid to the district.”
Hodag Schools Foundation (HSF) is especially pleased to announce a donation of
$50,000 from Ripco Credit Union. Designated for improvements to the Hodag athletic multi-
purpose complex, the donation comes in the form of a pledge over several years.
“The Ripco Board of Directors and I truly see this as a game changer for our
community,” notes Liza Edinger, President and CEO of Rhinelander’s Ripco Credit Union. “The
attraction this complex will have for not only those in our community, but also visitors from
outside of our area will result in positive outcomes, bringing an encouraging economic benefit
to our area. Moreover, we wanted to provide support to the largest commitment our school
district has made since 1958. The time, attention, and resources already provided by numerous
individuals and companies have been truly impressive and heartwarming to see. In addition,
we have a long-standing relationship with the Rhinelander School District, and have maintained
a student branch at Rhinelander High School for well over 10 years.”
Ripco Credit Union has long-time, strong roots in the Rhinelander community, operating
since 1932. Membership was available initially to employees of the Rhinelander Industrial
Paper Company, the credit union, and their immediate families. In 1972, Ripco became a
community credit union and the charter was expanded to include the city of Rhinelander.
Today, with over 12,000 members Ripco’s charter encompasses seven counties (Oneida, Forest,
Florence, Vilas, Langlade, Lincoln and Price) and membership is open to those who live, work, or own
real estate in those seven counties.
Edinger believes the Dome will attract many from outside of our community to different
events. This will provide an economic benefit to the area as visitors utilize hotels, restaurants,
gas stations, and other businesses that they choose to frequent. Edinger says, “We feel the
Dome will offer the opportunity for various sporting and other types of events year-round. The
possibilities are endless for use of the space. With the late springs we tend to have, it will no
doubt provide an opportunity for the community to come together more often. We live in an
area that is known for higher depression and seasonal affective disorder. We have long, cold
winters. Having an indoor facility of this magnitude could very well provide a reason for many
who do not venture outside to participate more in community events and improve their overall
She continues, “Some studies have shown that there appears to be a correlation
between participation in sports and academic achievement. This being the case, the Dome may
very well begin to not only draw in students but also improve students’ academics. We feel that
the Dome will only enhance what the Rhinelander School District has to offer which in turn will
attract more families to live in our area. Our credit union continues to grow in size and in
number of employees. It is not uncommon for us to have to look for prospective employees
outside of our community. Having such a facility in our town may very well become a draw to
families with children as they survey the District and what it has to offer. This could provide us
with a larger pool of qualified applicants for staff.”
Edinger wants to again remind the community that Ripco sees the Dome as a game
changer and an attraction to our community that will give those living here a strong sense of
pride. “The more we learned about the facility, the more enthused we got about the endless
opportunities that will come to our community.” She concludes, “We are thrilled not only to
support this endeavor, but also be an active part of this community and a business that will
benefit and experience what the Dome will accomplish over time.”
HSF board member Steve Jensen notes, “As a former coach of a spring sport and a physical
education teacher, I know the challenges weather can cause. That’s why donations like this from Ripco
are so important. HSF sincerely thanks Ripco Credit Union. Their generosity helps give Rhinelander the
opportunity to become a destination city.” Merlin VanBuren, SDR Board member, echoes that
gratitude, “The District thanks Ripco Credit Union for this generous donation. We are fortunate to have
their continued support.”