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Hodag Dome creates opportunities for athletes, community

Published: Feb. 1, 2021 at 5:31 PM CST
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RHINELANDER, Wis. (WSAW) - A new dome is opening a world of possibilities for athletes and people who live in Rhinelander.

The new facility at Rhinelander High School has space for sports teams to practice and community members to hold events. It’s the largest air-supported high school dome in the country.

The facility is going to change things for athletes in the Rhinelander community. They tell us they’ve had to have practice in the hallways at school or even stayed up until 10:00 pm for practice because of lack of space. That all changes Monday.

“To see this actually here is a great day for our community,” said Superintendent Eric Burke.

Monday is the first day the 128,000 square foot Hodag Dome is open at Rhinelander High School. School officials and those working to make the project come to a life cut the ribbon on the new facility.

“We have a combination of hard court surface and grass, so it brings in every activity the school does,” said Mike Roberts, chairman of the capital projects committee.

It’s built for cold Wisconsin days, helping keep mental health strong through winter.

“Get kids off of social media, get them involved, get them engaged, exercising leads to cognitive skills, what can they do to academics, that leads to activity success. This is really key, especially where it’s cold and dark,” said Dave Heck, President of the Hodag Schools Foundation.

The facility has a variety of courts a golf simulator and batting cages.

“This morning we already have people playing baseball, we have pickle ballers, we have basketball players, tennis players, it’s going to be a great resource in the middle of winter,” said Burke.

It’s also changing the ability of the high school tennis teams to prepare for a season.

“Having the courts indoors really puts us at an advantage early on because we can hit so early,” said Matt Nichols, head boys, and girls high school tennis coach.

Students are grateful for the new space.

“To be able to have this structure and come here and get better at our sports is just unbelievable,” said Jacksen Smith, a junior.

It’s also helping with COVID-19 safety measures.

“Tennis is nice cause it inherently leads itself to social distancing, and with the dome, we can really space out more than even in the gym,” said Nichols.

“There’s so much space here that even with all of the COVID precautions and keeping kids 6 feet apart, at one point last week we had six different sports in here at one time,” said Janet Jamison, Hodag Dome manager.

It may also give high school athletes the chance to get coaching from the collegiate level, as the dome hosts college tournaments.

“Tying those events with camps for our students, so that our students can get some extra coaching from college coaches. While they’re here maybe doing an event like that, it’ll bring our students in and they’ll work with our students,” said Roberts.

The district says the space could also be home to a voting location, COVID vaccination site, or trade show.

For more information, click here.

Kailin Schumacher contributed to reporting.

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