Construction at Mike Webster Stadium is depicted in this photo taken Thursday, July 11. Rhinelander High School activities director Brian Paulson said the conversion of the field from natural grass to artificial turf is on schedule. The field is slated to be ready for the RHS football team’s first varsity home game Friday, Sept. 6 vs. Lakeland. If the field is ready sooner than that it would host scheduled subvarsity football and varsity boys’ soccer games, Paulson added. (Jeremy Mayo/River News)
7/16/2019 7:31:00 AM Paulson: Mike Webster turf project on schedule
Rhinelander High School activities director Brian Paulson says the conversion of Mike Webster Stadium from natural grass to artificial turf is going well and the field is on track to be ready for the RHS football team's home opener - and maybe sooner than that.
Speaking with the River News at the stadium Thursday, Paulson said a favorable summer in terms of the weather has helped in a less than three-month turnaround to convert the football stadium to turf after the Rhinelander school board gave the go-ahead to the project in early June.
As of late last week, the grass had been removed, the base surface leveled and underground drainage channels dug. Still to come are a weed barrier and drain tile before the artificial surface is installed next month.
"We're on schedule for time," Paulson said. "What could get us behind schedule is weather. You never know, if we get a ton of rain with these trenches dug - because we're putting in our drainage and things like that - but we've been very fortunate this summer to have a beautiful summer. It's been nice outside and we haven't had too much rain where they've had to start working."
Though fall practices are only a few weeks away, the schedule has bought the construction crews a little extra time to get the field ready. The RHS football team was already scheduled to play non-conference road games at Prescott and Tomahawk the first two weeks of the regular season. The home opener is Friday, Sept. 6 against Lakeland.
Paulson said the goal is to have the field ready before then, but there's a chance it could be ready sooner, which could benefit the RHS boys' soccer team and the subvarsity levels of the football squad.
The RHS soccer team is set to host Hayward Tuesday, Aug. 27, followed by a home invitational Labor Day weekend that has been moved from the Hanson Lake Soccer Complex to RHS. Both events could be played at the newly-turfed Mike Webster if it's ready to go, otherwise the events could move to the soccer fields in front of Rhinelander High School.
The two games up in the air at this point are a freshman football game Aug. 23 against Stevens Point and a JV football game against Stratford Sept. 3. Alternate locations would need to be found for those games, if the field is not ready. For now, Paulson said he's confident enough to leave those games scheduled for Mike Webster.
"I don't want to move those quite yet, because we've been fortunate enough with the weather," he said. "I'd hate to have those kids miss out on a home game, but if it means missing out on a home game to have turf, I think they'd be pretty excited."
A series of upgrades have been made to Mike Webster Stadium over the past several years, including new lights, drainage improvements and a widened track. Drainage was still an issue last fall, however, as an abnormally wet season - coupled with the stress of football and soccer games throughout the month of September - turned the field into a quagmire and forced soccer games to move back in front of RHS in October.
In early June, the school board voted to accept bids to convert the football field to artificial turf at a cost of $573,000.
"This came about pretty fast," Paulson said. "It's moving pretty fast. It got approved, things moved forward and, boom, we're having this done for this football season, which is pretty amazing. A lot of credit goes to a lot of different people - from the administration to the school board and the support of Hodag Schools Foundation."
Last Monday, the school board was updated regarding the look of the new turf surface, which will feature a 30-yard-wide Hodag logo at midfield and "Hodags" written in each end zone. The River News is attempting to get a rendering of what the field will look like, though district officials said an updated version of the drawing has yet to be provided to it.
The new field will be only part of improvements football and soccer fans will experience once the Hodags host their first games of the fall. Paulson said the new building near the Mike Webster Stadium bleachers housing a concession stand, restrooms and a team meeting room, is nearly complete and could be fully operational in time for the RHS football team's Family Day practice set for Saturday, Aug. 10.
The building will replace antiquated restroom and concession facilities on the south end of the stadium complex.
"This is going to be beautiful," Paulson said. "Not only are we going to have turf here, but our Building Trades class was able to be a big part of finishing our concession stand/bathroom. If you've been into our bathrooms before, you'll probably chuckle a little bit. They're in really bad shape and they don't smell great, for sure. And the buildings are really old. This is a huge upgrade for sure."
The project is part of a slate of sports facilities upgrades the district is making. Also last month the board voted to spend up to $5.7 million, on top of $1.2 million in private donations, toward building an air-supported dome for indoor practices and competitions. Last week, the Hodag Schools Foundation announced the Tony and Lori Haug family has pledged to donate an additional $250,000 over several years toward the project.
The school board's capital projects ad hoc committee was set to meet last night to take another step in the process of constructing the dome.
According to the agenda, the committee was to "interview architectural firms and consider a recommendation to the board to hire a firm to design a dome structure, design outdoor practice fields and softball field, redesign the current baseball field, relocation of shot put and discus throw pits, design for parking areas and design for storage building(s)."
Information from River News reporter Jamie Taylor was used in this report.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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