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January 18, 2020

Jamie Taylor/River NewsJohn Kneer, president of Rettler Corporation, and Robert Thom, School District of Rhinelander director of business services (foreground), walk the members of the city planning commission through the design plan for the Hodag Sports Complex Tuesday evening, Dec. 3, 2019.
Jamie Taylor/River News

John Kneer, president of Rettler Corporation, and Robert Thom, School District of Rhinelander director of business services (foreground), walk the members of the city planning commission through the design plan for the Hodag Sports Complex Tuesday evening, Dec. 3, 2019.
12/5/2019 7:30:00 AM
City planning commission OKs CUP, site plan for Hodag Sports Complex
Next step is City Council approval

Jamie Taylor
River News Reporter

The conditional use permit (CUP) and site plan for the Hodag Sport Complex, complete with air-supported dome, received approval from the city of Rhinelander planning commission Tuesday night. The two measures now move to the full City Council for a final vote Monday.

John Kneer, president of Rettler Corporation, the firm designing and managing the massive construction project, and Robert Thom, School District of Rhinelander director of business services, walked the commissioners through the project. They also displayed detailed three-dimensional renderings of what the complex will look like when finished.

What started as a simple pursuit of more indoor practice space in winter months has morphed into a facility that is already generating telephone calls of interests from other school districts, and it has happened rather quickly.

In June, the school board voted to authorize $5.7 million from the general fund to be earmarked for the construction of the complex.

The finished complex will feature two softball fields, a full-size artificial surface outdoor practice field that will handle either football or soccer, another such field inside the dome, two softball fields and outdoor practice space. The whole project will be connected to the new concession stand at Mike Webster Stadium through an addition.

By the end of August, the Rhinelander Schools Foundation had raised a total of $1.65 million in private donations, some earmarked for the dome and some for the athletic complex as a whole. Funds have also bee raised by the RHS softball team and the girls softball association that are going directly to the softball portion of the complex.

The district and Rettler have been working on finalizing the plans so that the Board of Education can approve the final version on Jan. 10.

Bids for the construction of the site and dome will then be sent out. Those bids are scheduled to be opened Feb. 13, 2020, with board acceptance in March.

Groundbreaking is set for March 25, 2020 so the dome can be completed and operational by the fall of 2020. The softball fields are expected to be ready for play in the spring of 2021.

Kneer also said that as part of the detailed mapping done in preparing the plans, all existing wetlands have been identified and the goal is to not affect those areas in the process of raising and leveling the grade and installing an extensive water management system under the site.

The current parking for the stadium/dome will be doubled, and the entry to either facility will be by through a plaza.

Fire chief and building inspector Terry Williams said that Rettler has worked with his departments to make the access to all areas of the complex as easy as possible. This includes widening the corners of the dome to allow easy clearance for fire trucks.

A question was raised as to whether the lighting in the dome at night would affect residential neighbors.

"How will the dome be lighted so people don't look out their window and see this glowing huge thing," mayor Chris Frederickson asked.

"One of the highlights of this is we are working with the natural surroundings that are here," Kneer said. "There is a very heavy tree buffer between any of the homes to the north, northwest and even in the site itself."

While the dome will remain inflated, it would not be lit when there are no activities going on, he added.

The lighting in the parking lot and throughout the complex will be designed to illuminate only the area below it.

Another area that Kneer was questioned extensively about was removing the snow from the dome in the winter months.

In addition to a slot drainage system that will get snowmelt and rain water away from the dome, the track around the dome base will make plowing easy, he said.

Several areas for piling the snow removed from the base of the dome are incorporated in the design.

Runoff water will be directed toward wetlands located to the north and south.

Both the CUP and the site plan passed the commission unanimously.

Jamie Taylor may be reached via email at

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