The Hodag Sports Complex that will soon take shape alongside Mike Webster Stadium is being designed as a multi-use facility and it's up to the School District of Rhinelander's board of education to determine the rules that will govern the use of the complex.
While the facility is not expected to open until fall, the process of formulating rules for its use started last week with the district's operations and strategic planning committee
All properties owned by the School District of Rhinelander are governed by board policy and guidelines that spell out procedures for use of specific facilities. The overarching goal is to "encourage the widest possible use of school property for the activities of school, civic and religious organizations, within legal limitations," according to the policy.
One year ago, when the district first began discussing plans to build an indoor sports and multi-use facility, availability to the public was repeatedly stressed, the committee was reminded during its Jan. 13 meeting.
"We had a lot of conversations, especially when we were on the road to look at some of these facilities (in other communities), about how different school districts let their community use their facilities, especially these big recreation facilities," said committee chair Mike Roberts. "So if we needed to make changes to these (in the district policy), I want to start the process now."
The board policy and the administrative guidelines governing the use of school facilities has some rules that apply to all district facilities, along with specific rules and fees for use of the pool, the Cedric A. Vig Outdoor Classroom and the Fab Lab, to list just three examples. The policies also specify how members of the community or organizations can request to use district facilities for events.
The priority for use of athletic facilities is for K-12 athletes to have first use after 3 p.m. on weekdays, weekends and holidays during their respective seasons. Second priority goes to K-12 intramural programs while third priority is school-sponsored organizations, groups or individuals.
Nicolet College programs are the fourth highest use priority while non-school organizations, groups or individuals have the lowest priority.
District superintendent Kelli Jacobi said this priority list would have to remain unchanged so that students have first dibs on the use of the air-supported dome that will be the centerpiece of the complex.
It's understood that scheduling use of the dome will be a delicate balancing act, she added.
"Like everything else we do, we want these facilities to be as open to the community as possible," Roberts said.
Some ideas mentioned included allowing people to purchase an identification card that would also open the dome entrance to allow citizen activities like walking or tennis when the whole dome isn't being used.
"If you have baseball, tennis and track all in there, there's not going to be a lot of space for the community to walk," Roberts said. "But if there's just a baseball practice going on on the field, community could still be walking the perimeter or people could be in there playing tennis or pickleball. And we want to make it as easy as possible. We want to at least cover the cost of the I.D.s The whole idea of having scanners at the doors is so people can scan themselves in and out. It also keeps track of who is in or out."
Another concern is formulating rules for those who might want to use the dome to host an adult softball tournament or concert.
"Or an adult volleyball league wants to set up the nets on the grass," Roberts said, citing another example and noting that such events are gaining in popularity. "We've already had people ask if that is something that could be held in there."
User fees, rental costs and chaperone and supervision requirements for the dome are all issues still to be determined.
"We (district) get some of that (fees received) with our gymnasium space, but not a lot," Roberts said. "The idea is to attract more of that to the dome to help pay for itself somehow."
"What I would like to see us do is balance it so we don't limit the opportunity, and yet still make some money back," Roberts added.
One strict rule is there will be no alcohol allowed inside the dome, as with other district facilities.
In addition, outside groups that wish to rent a portion of a facility such as the pool, gym or the dome, must provide proof that they have liability insurance that holds the district harmless in the event of an accident.
"It's part of the reservation process," Jacobi said, adding that a new section will have to be added to the administrative guidelines covering the dome.
Jacobi told the committee the administration will gather examples from other districts and bring them to the panel to review next month.
Jamie Taylor may be reached via email at email@example.com.
The Northwoods River News | Walker Communications, LLC 232 S. Courtney Street, Rhinelander, WI 54501 | Office (715) 365-6397 | Fax (715) 365-6361
Corporate billing office: The Lakeland Times / Lakeland Printing Inc. | P.O. Box 790, Minocqua, WI 54548 | (715) 356-5236 | Fax (715) 358-2121 Members of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, Wisconsin Community Papers, Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce, Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce