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August 19, 2019

Jamie Taylor/River NewsStanding at the far right, making what proved to be the winning indoor athletic facility proposal to the School District of Rhinelander Board of Education Monday evening, are Steve Flanagan and Gregg Nelson of Yeadon Domes of Minneapolis.
Jamie Taylor/River News

Standing at the far right, making what proved to be the winning indoor athletic facility proposal to the School District of Rhinelander Board of Education Monday evening, are Steve Flanagan and Gregg Nelson of Yeadon Domes of Minneapolis.
Photo Courtesy Yeadon DomesAs part of its Powerpoint presentation to the School District of Rhinelander Board of Education Monday evening, Yeadon Domes used this image to illustrate how a dome next to Mike Webster Stadium might look with additional panels that would make it a uniquely Rhinelander facility.
Photo Courtesy Yeadon Domes

As part of its Powerpoint presentation to the School District of Rhinelander Board of Education Monday evening, Yeadon Domes used this image to illustrate how a dome next to Mike Webster Stadium might look with additional panels that would make it a uniquely Rhinelander facility.
6/27/2019 7:30:00 AM
School board goes all in for dome
Size, final cost still to be determined

Jamie Taylor
River News Reporter

After hearing presentations from three firms specializing in constructing indoor sports facilities, the School District of Rhinelander Board of Education voted 9-0 Monday evening to go ahead with the air-supported dome option presented by Yeadon Domes of Minneapolis.

The board went into the meeting with two possible motions it could make directing district administrators to "create a request for the hire of an architectural/engineering firm to be the district's representative to provide services for design, bidding and construction management" of either a metal/masonry indoor facility or the air-supported dome.

The three companies that made presentations were Yeadon Domes of Minneapolis, Miron Construction of Wausau and Greenfire of Wausau. Blue Design Group worked on the design of the steel building with both Miron and Greenfire, however different designers worked on each project.

Before the presentations started, Rhinelander mayor Chris Frederickson told the board it was showing positive leadership, even though doing so might make the board members targets for some taxpayers who might disagree with whatever decision they make. As a soccer coach, he said he has to urge his players to show positive leadership even if it does make them a target.

"What you do then is when you encourage anyone to be positive, you lift them up and champion their idea," Frederickson said. "So basically, I'm just here to say, Winston Churchill said 'fear of reaction. Courage is a decision.' And Rhinelander supports its leaders, whatever you decide, and I would like to encourage you."

Yeadon Domes

The Yeadon Domes' presentation was made by Gregg Nelson, vice president of sales and marketing, and Steve Flanagan, advisor.

Nelson told the board members his firm's goal was to give them enough information to make the best decision for the Rhinelander community.

"We've been in business for over 40 years and we've done 1,000 plus domes," Nelson said. "And the thing to know about domes is they are really a growing trend. As the technology gets better, engineering gets better. The domes that we're putting up are really performing well for those communities and schools where it's the right choice for building size."

A dome pays for itself in creating a large structure with maximum usable surface, Nelson added.

"We have less footing, less trussing, it's air supported," he explained. "It's supported by positive pressure put into the dome. Really, the key thing here, especially in the upper Midwest, we want to weather-proof your schedule. Whether it's practice, a tournament, a game, we don't want anyone to have to cancel because of a storm."

Another benefit of a dome is the speed in which it can be constructed and the cost compared to other building options, he continued.

"It's going to last 25-30 years on the actual membrane," Nelson said. "But our goal as a company and our goal for the dome is to create playable space at the best cost. A dome really covers so much space and gives so much flexibility to that space, whether it's community access for morning walking programs, or play time with open access for young families all the way up to what you might call the core tenant, which would be the sports teams, the sports clubs, the programs here in Rhinelander."

He then went over the main elements of the dome Yeadon would build if selected. It would consist of the architectural membranes and supporting cables, inflation and HVAC systems, which would have triple redundancy built into them, indirect L.E.D. lighting and pressure-rated doors and airlocks, he told the board.

The cables would be anchored to a raised concrete grade beam in recessed channels that surround the dome.

"It is a cement anchor that holds the dome to the ground around the perimeter of the dome," Nelson said. "It's not poured under the floor of the dome. It is going to hold that uplift load, it's going to want to lift off the ground. But we've designed it to not do that, of course."

The key decision that the board would have to make is how big to make the dome, he continued.

The smaller option, which would be 240-feet by 380-feet, could accommodate an entire soccer pitch, softball, baseball and football fields and running lanes. The 240-foot by 500-foot larger dome could also include tennis or basketball courts, batting cages and a full track. Options would allow for turf that could be rolled up to accommodate hard surfaces for the basketball courts and track.

The smaller dome would measure 91,200 square feet while the larger dome would have 120,000 square feet of usable surface inside.

He noted that he is aware the board was considering placing the dome next to Mike Webster Stadium to take advantage of the new concession stand/team room, and he believes that location would be a good choice for the project.

"We love this location, we drove by it on our way in," Nelson said.

Costs for the two options were estimated at $2.6 million for the smaller dome and $3.5 million for the larger dome. These prices would include the installation of the dome, turf, track lanes, grade beams, vaults and groundwork. Nelson also provided figures that domes in the Minneapolis area charge for typical uses. They ranged from $150 an hour for tennis courts all the way up to $10,000 for a weekend tournaments. This would be a revenue stream the district could use to pay for annual maintenance on the dome, he noted.

Nelson also said that Yeadon Domes would like to earn the district's business by "being a good consultant."

"We would work with you to finalize the size and what you want out of the site and let us give you our thoughts and what kind of dome is going to best give you what you're after," Nelson said. "We would help prepare the design and engineering drawings for submittals to the city for permitting and code discussion. And, of course, we're always going to try to refine what we bring to the table so that we fit your budget."

He said any adjustments to the plan that the city would require would be part of what the firm would provide.

"Once we're through that hurdle, if that's the direction you choose to go, we stand ready," Nelson said. "At the point of a formal handshake in the form of a contract, we would be 14 to 16 weeks away from bringing you a dome and inflating it."

When asked how snow loads would be handled, Flanagan said the heat and pressure of the dome causes the snow to slid down the sides. From there, it would be a matter of plowing it away from the grade beam, which is what most northern dome operators do.

Other questions from the board involved UV protection, which is built into all three layers of the membrane, which gives it a 20-25 year life span. It was also noted that the dome is designed for the highest wind speeds for where it's built, anywhere from 90 m.p.h. to hurricane force winds.

Miron Construction

Miron Construction was represented by Craig Uhlenbrauck, vice president of education division, Tony Creten, vice president of Wausau operations and Steve Romatz of Blue Design Group who would do the design work.

Uhlenbrauck pointed out that Miron has done over 22 projects totaling $27 million with the school district alone, and $130 million in projects in the Rhinelander area. Major projects he listed were the Printpack building, the YMCA of the Northwoods, Marshfield Clinic locations and construction, and the original construction and additions to the Nativity of Our Lord Catholic Church.

He pointed out that for the design element of the project, they and Greenfire share the same design firm, but different designers were assigned to each project.

"Our understanding of that process is that Greenfire, who is pursuing this as well, knows that the school district went and toured the Kimberly facility, which we will be showing you shortly," Uhlenbrauck said. "That is a project that we did design/build with Blue Design Group. Steve and I were instrumental in that project."

Uhlenbrauck said it is his understanding is that Greenfire contacted Blue Design Group and hired the company's other designer for their presentation.

Romatz told the board that there are code restrictions governing the size of steel structures, be they attached to another building or free standing. He then explained how they would apply to the options the board was considering for Rhinelander. When his firm designed the Kimberly facility, which is the largest of its kind in the state, they worked with the school board there to best explore the two options, keeping those code restrictions in mind, while maximizing how they wanted to utilize the finished product, he explained.

"Is it for competition? Because if it is, it becomes a whole different animal from the state building review and planning code perspective," Romatz said. "The two are not the same if it's an educational facility or if it is an assembly facility."

Another factor Kimberly had to consider in deciding between a connected or free standing building is how far students would have to walk to the separate building in inclement weather. Ultimately, the Kimberly board decided that even though they had ample green space, the weather consideration and the need for 60-feet of paved surface around the building to allow fire trucks to reach any side of the building per fire code eliminated the separate building option.

If Rhinelander did opt to go with the attached building, design considerations on how best to utilize existing locker rooms and other athletic facilities while not disrupting other parts of the high school such as the receiving dock and parking, would mean the addition could only go in one location, he added.

Due to size restrictions, Kimberly's building ended up allowing only half a football or soccer field and some running lanes, but curtains and dividers were designed into the facility. These allowed for batting cages and such as well as protection for the lights, ceiling and walls from damage from errant balls.

Fire code also plays a part in the design of the building, because after a certain size, a fire wall and sprinkler system is mandated.

He said the process of getting the Kimberly addition designed to what would best serve the needs of that school district and community took 2 1/2 months of work.

"Craig and I and the staff, the athletic director and all of the coaches, administrator, business manager and the rest of their design team would meet every Friday morning," Romatz said. "I think the initial design process needs to be given a lot of consideration, because every school district that I have worked with since I have been in the profession is different and they all use their buildings a little bit differently."

Uhlenbrauck said the estimated cost for an addition to RHS would be just shy of $6.89 million. This would be for a 47,000 square foot facility with indoor turf and a three-lane walking track, a 3,000 square foot separate entrance and lobby and bathrooms so that it could be used when the hgh school is closed, and the connector to the high school. It also includes the cost of replacing about 100 parking stalls that would be lost where the building would go up as well as storm water management.

He said the addition would most likely be completed no sooner than August 2020.


Greenfire's presentation was made by Michael Murphy, director of northern operations, Bob Bergmann, senior project manager, Craig Bailey, superintendent and Steve Jamroz of Blue Design Group.

Greenfire is the firm currently working on the additions to three of the four district elementary school buildings. It is also currently working on designing and building an indoor sports and multi-purpose facility for the Forest County Potawatomi tribe, and has done work converting outside stadiums from natural grass to artificial turf as well as additions of various sizes to existing buildings.

Murphy and Jamroz cited many of the same factors that the group ahead of them did as to the various design options.

One thing they noted was the interest and cooperation between all the coaches and community members in the Rhinelander project. The two stressed that a lack of this level of cooperation in other projects hampered their design efforts.

Jamroz urged the board to not rush into a decision.

"If you are going to spend the money to do a facility like this, I would urge you to take a deep breath, and spend a month, spend two months and plan it right," he said. "You don't know if you want tennis in there, you don't know if you want basketball in there, you don't know if you want football. All of these sports programs are a great problem to have, but they will be arguing that they want space in there."

Greenfire quoted a price of $6,995,583 for a steel building attached to RHS and $6,705,529 for a 50,000 square foot standalone structure near Mike Webster Stadium.

The vote

After all three presentations were complete, board president Ron Counter turned the floor over for comments and questions from the packed house in the Superior Diesel Advanced Learning Center. Many of those in attendance were coaches from the district and youth sports programs and the overwhelming majority came out in favor of the dome option as providing the most indoor space with the most flexible uses at the lowest cost.

At the end of the discussion, Counter asked district activities director Brian Paulson for his opinion.

"Personally, I'm going to lay it on the table, I'm sold on the dome," Paulson said. "And the reason being, we're able to practice tennis; we have no indoor tennis courts in town right now. At the same time, we could have soccer practice going on in there in the spring. While we're having soccer practice in the spring, we can have track come after soccer."

Having indoor space available for track, golf, softball and baseball able to practice indoor in the dome was also a major factor. Also, the ability to gain revenue from renting the facility is a major plus, he added.

When asked for his opinion, RHS softball coach D.J. DeMeyer echoed the comments of many people in the room.

"This (the dome) would be a real game changer for this town," he said.

Roberts then made a motion to pursue the dome option. It was seconded by Counter, who cast the ninth vote in the roll call with a drawn out "yes."

At the May 28 meeting, the district's director of business services Marta Kwiatkowski (who is set to leave her position Friday) explained that due to an uptick in state aid, coupled with belt-tightening over the past several years, the general fund could handle a $3.45 million contribution to the project. Another $2.25 million would come from the maintenance budget over three years at $750,000 a year, she said.

The board voted unanimously June 10 to spend up to $5.7 million in district funds to build an indoor athletic facility.

An additional $1.2 million to fund the facility is expected to come from private donors through the Hodag Schools Foundation , including $500,000 from Dr. Lee Swank and family.

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