Dome or steel facility? $1.2 million in pledges a possible springboard to new indoor sports space in Rhinelander schoolsSubmitted: 05/31/2019
Story By Ben Meyer

Dome or steel facility?  $1.2 million in pledges a possible springboard to new indoor sports space in Rhinelander schools
RHINELANDER - Dave Heck finds irony in a Rhinelander Daily News clipping from more than 40 years ago.

In 1977, people told the newspaper the city needed an athletic fieldhouse or multipurpose facility.

It hadn't happened since the high school's 1958 opening, and it hasn't happened since in the 42 years since that article.

"What does it mean? It means, ideally, we should have done this a long time ago," Heck said Friday. "We haven't had additional [high school] space since 1958."

Heck's organization, the Hodag Schools Foundation, plans to change that.

This week, it presented plans to use $1.2 million in private pledges, plus district operational and reserve money, to build a major indoor athletic facility on district land.  A half-million of that money comes from a donation from local physician Lee Swank.

The two top plans call for a permanent steel sports center or seasonal dome over the football and soccer field at Mike Webster Stadium, whose grass would be converted to turf.

Either facility would be open to both students and the community.

"We said, 'We have to do something.' We're losing students through open enrollment. It's not helping us attract businesses and families and keeping businesses and families, with our facilities," Heck, the Hodag Schools Foundation President, said.

In the last five years, Rhinelander has lost $5.2 million in state aid as students enroll in other districts. This school year, the district lost a net 107 students to open enrollment.

Heck is confident better athletic spaces would bring them back and bring new students in.

"Give them a place to spend time. Give them a place to exercise. Give them a place to be engaged. Give them a place to be a part of a community," he said.

The steel sports space would have a higher up-front cost, $5.5 to $6.2 million, but less yearly maintenance costs. The seasonal dome would cost $1.4 to $1.7 million but cost a quarter-million dollars a year in maintenance. It would be set up in November and taken down in April.

In either case, the Hodag Schools Foundation is asking the district to chip in millions of dollars in existing fund balance money and dollars from the annual maintenance budget. However, neither option would require a public referendum.

Rhinelander's school board will discuss and likely select an option on June 10.

But immediately, a separate part of the plan calls for building new outdoor softball and practice football fields on campus. Those spaces are often underwater right now.

"[The city of Rhinelander's] Stevens Street project is going on right now. Musson [Brothers] has some dirt available," said activities director Brian Paulson. "They're willing to donate about 250 to 300 dump truck loads to be able to help us bring this up to grade."

The big step of the plan, the dome or steel structure, would help teams now practicing in Rhinelander's gym and hallways. But in pushing for construction, Heck points to studies saying more space and more exercise help academic performance and mental health for all students, too.

Heck said he intends to keep raising private funds and will likely look to secure naming rights for the facility to raise more money.

Text Size: + Increase | Decrease -
| Print Story | Email Story
Sponsored in part by HodagSports.com


Play Video

TOMAHAWK - Charlotte Andreachi owns the Knot Haus craft shop in downtown Tomahawk. This holiday season, she wanted to give back by helping homeless people in the area.

"It's much worse than most of us think, which is what I found out too," said Andreachi.

Then, she got an idea.

"I had a rack in the back that wasn't being used," said Andreachi.

She put it outside her shop with nine coats on it Nov. 1. A sign on the rack asked those who need one to take one, and those who have extra to leave one.

"I count them just because it's interesting to me [to see] how many are gone in the morning when I come in," said Andreachi.

In just under two weeks, nearly 25 coats have been taken. Meanwhile, individual donations have kept the rack fully stocked.

"That's what's amazing to me. The generosity of the people out there donating coats," said Andreachi. "Obviously there's a need since we've gone through about 25 already."

Andreachi knows first-hand just how tough homelessness can be.

"At one time, I was living out of my car in my early twenties," said Andreachi. "That was in the summertime. I just cannot imagine in the wintertime trying to stay warm."

Andrea Krueger serves as the President for Tomahawk Main Street. She's also a good friend of Andreachi's. She's more than happy with how the community has responded to the coat drive.

"We're very fortunate here in Tomahawk to have a community with open hearts that's willing to give when needed," said Krueger.

+ Read More

CORNING - A fatal car crash occurred early this morning in the Town of Corning. The crash took place at 3:12 AM on State Road 64.

A witness reports seeing the victim swerve to miss a deer, leaving the roadway, and rolling over. Corning firefighters responded but the victim was pronounced dead on the scene.

+ Read More

Play Video

SUGAR CAMP - 23-year-old Sean Holtslander died in Sugar Camp after being hit on his motorcycle in August.

The Oneida county sheriff's office arrested Jeffrey Liebscher in connection to the crash.
Dorothy Holtslander said she feels the justice system failed her son, and her life without her son has been a living nightmare.

She doesn't think the bond for Liebscher matched the circumstances.

"The DA told me he was hoping for $20,000 to $50,000 considering he took a life; I don't think $1,500 is a modest or significant amount," said Holtslander.

+ Read More

MADISON - More than 234,000 voters in Wisconsin would be made unable to cast their ballot unless they register again before the next election under a lawsuit that liberals fear could dampen turnout among Democrats in the 2020 presidential race.

The lawsuit being filed Wednesday could affect how many voters are able to cast ballots in both the April presidential primary and November 2020 general election in Wisconsin.

+ Read More

Play Video

- A Minocqua man facing ten felony counts of possessing child pornography waived his right to a preliminary hearing Wednesday.

Matthew Kummer was arrested last month at James Williams Middle School in Rhinelander.

Kummer said he was there to pick up his friend's daughter.

Police later found pictures of underage girls on Kummer's phone and on a flash drive at his home.

Kummer also faces charges of Photographing a minor without consent and violating terms of the sex offender registry.

+ Read More

SHOREWOOD, WI - All public schools in a Milwaukee suburb closed after officials say a high school student wrote a hit list and was found in possession of a loaded magazine of ammunition.

Shorewood School District officials said because of "ongoing safety concerns," classes and activities are canceled Wednesday.

+ Read More

WAUKESHA - Video footage captured a bus driver rescuing two young children found wandering in the snow Monday morning.

When the Waukesha bus driver, Nicole Chamberlain, saw the two children, she didn't hesitate.

+ Read More
+ More General News