The Hodag Sports Complex cleared another major hurdle Tuesday when the major contracts for its construction, to include an air-supported dome, were sent out for bids.
The project has been moving along at a steady clip since last June when the school board approved spending $5.7 million from the fund balance toward the complex's construction.
The deadline for bids is Feb. 18. The Rettler Corporation, the company the district hired to oversee the project, will study them ahead of a bid review meeting on March 2. The school board is scheduled to vote on the bids March 16.
District administrators and planners are eager to learn what the total budget for the project will be so they can adjust the final plans accordingly. Work will begin on the project as soon as frost is out of the ground.
At the Jan. 20 school board meeting, the subject of the engineering cost estimates was discussed.
The district's capital projects ad hoc committee, chaired by Mike Roberts, has been on the front lines of the planning process for the complex, which is expected to include an outdoor artificial turf practice field, another one in the permanent dome and two softball fields that will tie into Mike Webster Stadium.
"We're trying to get the cost estimate in line," Roberts told the board. "Currently, the estimate is at $7.49 million. With that, it will build a complete athletic complex with the air-inflated dome, softball fields, the shot and discus fields, reconstruction on the practice fields, all walkways, parking, entrance plaza."
While at first blush the project would appear to be over budget, it was noted that the $5.7 million the board earmarked for the project last June is being augmented by private donations.
In a phone call Tuesday afternoon, Roberts said donations committed to the complex total over $1.5 million with more coming in.
"We did tell them to give us a conservative engineering estimate, so really the hope is the bids come in much better than that," Roberts said Monday.
Roberts noted that some "alternatives" are being priced through the bid process to see if some or all of them could be added back into the plans. These include the sports court coverings for the concrete tennis courts, movable outfield fencing, scoreboard inside the dome, scoreboards and lighting at the softball fields as well as batting cages and dugouts. Irrigating the softball fields and providing bleachers were other items listed as on the bubble, depending on how the prices come in.
"Those extras come up to about $800,000," Roberts said, noting that when the city asked the district if it could move softball out of Pioneer and West Side parks, moving the fencing and bleachers and scoreboard from the city parks to the school district site was not discussed.
"There's nothing in writing from the city, so we'll have to talk to them," Roberts said. "Just hope for a good construction season and low bids."
Dave Heck of the Rhinelander Schools Foundation said the organization hopes to have the commitments from private donors finalized before the bids are awarded.
"I know we're coming down to crunch time," Heck said, adding that the commitment and support from the school board has "gone a long way" to assure donors that the project will be a reality, which is making more donations possible.
"This is an exciting time, it's an incredible opportunity for Rhinelander," Heck said.
The idea of the dome and surrounding sports complex grew from a $500,000 pledge from Dr. Lee Swank and his family that was to be used to increase indoor practice space for RHS athletes. It was decided a dome would be a way for the district to get "the most bang for the buck" in solving that problem.
Heck said the RSF is still accepting donations for the complex.
The dome is scheduled to be completed by the end of September of this year and the softball fields are expected to be useable in the spring of 2021.
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