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May 30, 2020

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Pictured, from left to right, announcing the Rhinelander Culverís donation to the Hodag Sports Complex project are restaurant owners Josh and Jen Clark, HSF president Dave Heck and School District of Rhinelander activities director Brian Paulson.
Submitted photo

Pictured, from left to right, announcing the Rhinelander Culverís donation to the Hodag Sports Complex project are restaurant owners Josh and Jen Clark, HSF president Dave Heck and School District of Rhinelander activities director Brian Paulson.
2/1/2020 7:30:00 AM
Clarks pledge $25,000 for sports complex project
River News Staff

Local entrepreneurs Josh and Jen Clark, owners of the Rhinelander Culver's restaurant, have pledged $25,000 to the School District of Rhinelander's Hodag Sports Complex project, joining a growing list of local business owners and organizations who have stepped up to support the construction of the facility proponents believe will be a game changer for the entire community.

The Hodag School Foundation (HSF), the non-profit organization coordinating the private fundraising for the project, announced the Clarks' pledge in a press release Thursday morning.

In addition to the local Culver's restaurant, the Clarks own 11 additional Culver's restaurants in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, and Florida.

Josh Clark explained the couple's decision to donate to the sports complex project.

"We were both involved in athletics, and we feel strongly about the values that sports and extra-curricular activities bring to kids in our community," he said. "Rhinelander is our home. We have two boys, Connor and Cooper, who will grow up with the advantage of having a dome complex to be active all year and hopefully be better students, athletes, and well-rounded people because of this new facility. We are also proponents of growing the Northwoods, and this will be a huge attraction to potential families moving up here. The final element is the mental health aspect. Anyone that has lived up here for an extended period knows the winters can get long and this will really help to get people out of the house and active during those long, dark winter months."

"For almost 35 years, Culver's guests have been treated to cooked-to-order food made with farm-fresh ingredients, served with a smile," the release states. "The restaurants' nationally recognized customer service is based on small-town, Midwestern values, genuine friendliness and an unwavering commitment to quality." 

The Clarks employ approximately 55 team members and managers in their Rhinelander restaurant and over 550 in all of their restaurants. 

The Clarks also operate another local business, Clark Business Solutions, which has three local employees that provide accounting services to Culver's restaurants locally and throughout the country, according to the release.

In addition to the health benefits, the Clark family believes the dome will play a major role in growing the local economy, Josh said.

"If we are attracting more people to Rhinelander, they will stay at our hotels, eat at our restaurants, and shop at our local establishments," he noted. "I believe this will be huge for attracting talent and people to the Northwoods and make this the place to live if you are making a move north."

"A few years ago I used to hear about how bad our roads were when people would come up from out of town," he continued. "The PRAT tax that [the city] has implemented has allowed the improvement of the city roads and infrastructure, and I look at the dome as being a very similar improvement. It is an investment in our future and something that will pay dividends for years to local business, tourism, housing, and tax revenue. Hopefully, the dome will be a deciding factor when a family is contemplating a move to the Northwoods."

"It is great to have local business step up to support this project," said HSF board member Brian Gaber. "We at HSF are delighted that Culver's has invested in Rhinelander's future education."

School board member Ann Munninghoff Eshelman echoed that sentiment.

"I am very happy and proud to see the Rhinelander community support its schools with such unprecedented generosity," she said. "Heartfelt thanks to Culvers, as well as all the other dedicated community members and organizations."

The sports complex project was jump-started in 2019 by a $500,000 donation from Dr. Lee Swank and family who were looking for a way to help local student-athletes whose practice schedules are often hampered by cold weather. In June, the school board voted to spend up to $5.7 million, on top of $1.2 million in private donations, to build an air-supported dome for indoor practices, competitions and other community uses.

The complex is scheduled to open in September 2020.

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