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July 21, 2019

7/11/2019 7:28:00 AM
School committee makes final decisions on Mike Webster Stadium field design
Larger Hodag image, name in both end zones sparks discussion

Jamie Taylor
River News Reporter

When the Rhinelander High School football team takes the field at Mike Webster Stadium Friday, Sept. 6 against the Lakeland Thunderbirds, it will mark the debut of the stadium's new artificial playing surface. However, no matter which end zone they drive toward, the team will see its name, "Hodags" in large letters.

On Monday, the School District of Rhinelander's capital projects ad hoc committee made final decisions as to the design to be painted onto the field when it is laid later this summer.

The committee had previously decided to have a smaller Hodag image with "Rhinelander" in one end zone and "Hodags" in the other. However, superintendent Kelli Jacobi said there had been some reconsideration of the design.

"We don't need a vote. I just wanted to keep everybody in the loop," Jacobi told the committee. "As you can see from the drawings, you can see why I want to move forward, and plan to move forward with this change."

The previous design had a smaller Hodag logo contained entirely between the 40-yard-lines. In the larger version, the beast's outstretched claw and tail nearly reaches the 35-yard lines.

"When the drawings were originally done, it was time-sensitive," Jacobi said. "We slapped the Hodag in the middle and worked out the wording on the ends to get it started."

After consultation with coaches and activities director Brian Paulson, it was decided the larger Hodag and "Hodags" in both end zone had the right symmetry, she explained.

"The small one just doesn't look right," Jacobi said. "The perspective is all off for a field this size. We are getting a slight reduction in the overall cost because there are fewer letters associated with the end zones. So that can be used to help with the additional cost of the larger Hodag which is $7,250, but with the savings in the end zones, it will be an additional $6,000 over what has been approved."

Because the total cost is under $25,000, no formal board action is needed.

"I just wanted to, as we are working on this after your approval, keep everyone in the loop so there aren't surprises later on," she said.

Board member David Holperin said he preferred having "Rhinelander" in one end zone and "Hodags" in the other with the larger center image.

"This is permanent, this is for the next 20 years," Holperin pointed out.

Board president Ron Counter noted that "Hodags" are synonymous with Rhinelander.

"This has been a big debate," Jacobi said.

"You look at the Badgers field (Camp Randall Stadium) 'Wisconsin' on one end and 'Badgers' is on the other," Holperin said.

Because of its length, the word Rhinelander makes the design of the field seem lopsided, Jacobi added.

"We're the only Hodags in Wisconsin, probably in the United States," said board member Duane Frey.

Committee chair Mike Roberts agreed with Jacobi.

"There are probably more places that have the community name on one end zone, then their mascot name in the other," Roberts said.

"I preferred the 'Hodags' on both sides because having the symmetry so far off really bothered me," Jacobi said.

Frey said he preferred the balanced "Hodags" design.

"Do we all agree the bigger Hodag looks better?" Roberts asked, to which Frey and Holperin agreed. "Then let's go with the cost savings and offset that and go with 'Hodags' on both sides. And I think Hodags speak for themselves."

"We're the Rhinelander Hodags, people," Holperin replied. "I thought this was going to be a short meeting. We're the Rhinelander Hodags. Don't you see the value in it? You don't want the town's name there?"

Everybody chuckled, and Frey added "I don't think anyone confuses the Hodags with Merrill or Crandon and Antigo."

"You're not going to hurt my feelings. I'm used to being outvoted 8-1 or 7-2," Holperin said. "I'm not changing my opinion."

Paulson was asked for his take on the end zone wording.

"I like Rhinelander because that is what is normal," Paulson said. "But, the one thing I will say is, if you go 'Hodag' 'Hodag,' look at the soccer lines in there. The goalie box you can see pretty clearly where it says 'Hodags.' When you get 'Rhinelander,' it goes out further (to the sides), then that white with the gray kind of makes it tricky."

Being able to see the soccer markings played a big part of the final recommendation, he added.

"To make sure that the lines are clear for the officials and for the students," Paulson said.

Holperin then asked new director of instruction Rachel Hoffman for her opinion.

"I like the symmetry, I really do," Hoffman said. "Because we are the only ones."

While the committee was talking, she did an internet search for 'Hodags' and the only thing that came up was associated with Rhinelander, she added.

"The first 100 hits were all Rhinelander," Hoffman said. "So they are pretty synonymous with Rhinelander."

Jacobi and Roberts said no decision has been made as to the design of the artificial surface that will be placed under the still-to-be constructed air-supported dome when it is built.

The school board voted last month to accept bids to convert the football field to artificial turf at a cost of $573,000. Additionally, the board voted to spend up to $5.7 million, on top of $1.2 million in private donations, toward building an air-supported dome for indoor practices and competitions.

Almost immediately following the ad hoc committee meeting, the operations and strategic planning committee met for about 10 minutes and passed revisions to six district policy pertaining to support staff and 14 for students. It also recommended the deletion of one policy pertaining to students. The revisions will go to the full Board of Education for final approval.

Jamie Taylor may be reached via email at

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