The School District of Rhinelander took another big step toward its goal of building what is to be known as the Hodag Sports Complex Monday when the school board accepted a $1.89 million dollar bid from a St. Louis firm to manufacture the air-supported dome that will be the centerpiece of the complex.
In June, the board voted to earmark up to $5.7 million from the general fund for the dome project and agreed on the concept of a sports complex. The complex will feature two softball fields and an outdoor practice field for football and soccer.
According to RHS softball coach D.J. DeMeyer, coaches around the state are following Rhinelander's progress and are hoping to use the sports complex in the future. While at a fall softball tournament in Beloit this past weekend, DeMeyer said he was approached by coaches interested in Rhinelander's project.
"Two different coaches from two different towns asked about this dome and when can we play in it?" DeMeyer told the school board. "Just so you know, it's the talk all over the state. They are very interested in coming up and playing ball in the dome."
John Kneer, president of Rettler Corp., the firm the district hired to oversee the construction of the sports complex, explained the bid process and explained the three bids the district received.
"Just to walk you through the process, a few weeks ago, we put a request for bids out to four dome companies," Kneer said. "We received three bids, so we're very pleased with that. We had performance specifications, a very detailed 120-page or so that they (the companies) got to go with the very detailed front-end specifications for the dome itself."
As a result, he said over the course of the two-week bidding window, Rettler received very few questions as to what the project entails.
The bids were opened Oct. 9 in the administrative offices, he added.
"We found a very very tight bid, which is great. In my mind that shows us that each dome manufacturer understood the product that was desired by the school district and bid accordingly," Kneer said.
There was a difference of only $40,000 between the three bids. Yeardon Domes of Minnesota submitted a bid of $1,929,930 while ASATI of New York submitted a $1,906,360. Arizon Building Systems' bid of $1,890.881 was the lowest bid.
"Each builder was able to qualify their bids and show the experience necessary to provide and install (the dome) here in Rhinelander," Kneer said, noting that Rettler has worked with Arizon on the dome structure at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
"So we have direct experience with them," Kneer said before recommending the board accept their bid.
The bid price Arizon submitted included a "voluntary alternative" for the dome to be manufactured with a skylight roof that would allow natural light to pass through.
"I feel there are a lot of benefits to that and I feel it is a very worthwhile addition to the dome," Kneer said. "It lets natural light in, allowing you to turn the lights off during the daytime, during the summer hours in particular. It does provide a very nice environment for the users of the dome to experience the natural light."
He said the alternative was added to the amount the company bid on the "base bid" which resulted in the final bid.
Yeardon offered a deduction of $60,000 for building the attachment where the dome would connect to the new concession stand at Mike Webster Stadium as an alternative. ASATI offered to include an automation system and batting cages for $19,320. more.
All the bids also included a $70,000 signage provision, which would allow the district to place the Hodag logo on the side of the dome. Kneer also said the bid package was specific as to what shade of green would be used on the dome.
"We called each of the vendors and made sure they had custom colors included in their bid," Kneer said.
Kneer was asked what was included with the bid.
"It's the dome itself, the cables, the anchors, the aluminum anchor trench that goes at the base of the grade beam, that is all going to be supplied by the dome manufacturer," he said.
Kneer said the air handling units, fans and other mechanical portions of the dome will be bid out in the next round of bids in December. This bid package will also include the installation of the grade beam and the earth moving portion of the entire project. The artificial turf, batting cages, nets, the running tracks and other interior features will also be part of the second bid package.
All three bids discussed Monday came in under what the district had budgeted for that portion of the total project, he added.
Estimates place the total cost of the dome at around $4.5 million when the rest of the components are sent out for bids in December.
In addition to the $5.7 million allocated by the board, the Rhinelander Schools Foundation has raised a total of $1.65 million in private donations, some of which is earmarked specifically for the dome project.
Board member Mike Roberts said the manufacturer of the dome will also design the grade beam, which anchors the dome to the ground.
"They're (manufacturers) all a little different," Roberts said.
The board voted 8-0 to accept Arizon's bid.
Also on the agenda Monday was to accept the bid for relocating the discus and shot put area at Mike Webster Stadium, which will allow RHS to host the track regionals next spring.
"This project also bid in the same time frame (as the dome)," Kneer said. "We feel, from the standpoint of budgeting, that they (bids) came in significantly higher from what we want to see for a shot/discus project."
The time of the year and the ambitious goal of getting that part of the project done this fall were factors that likely elevated the price by between $20,000 and $40,000 over what was budgeted, he explained.
Kneer said the plan is to rebid the project in December, at the same time as the bigger package, and award the winning bid in January with construction to get under way at the same time as the dome in the spring. If work can begin in March or April, he said it could be completed by mid-May. This would mean the regionals will still be able to be hosted at the stadium.
District superintendent Kelli Jacobi recommended the board reject the two bids, which the members did by unanimous vote.
Kneer said there is a lot of interest among construction companies for the work that will be bid out in December/January.
"We got a lot of calls," he said. "The bidder's list for the shot/discus was over 15 general contractors. They thought it was the big one."
The board also decided to postpone the groundbreaking ceremony, which was originally scheduled for Oct. 29, to sometime in spring so that the work will start immediately after the ceremony.
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