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Rhinelander Ice Arena announces expansion plans - Jeremy Mayo of the Northwoods River News

The Rhinelander Ice Arena will undergo an expansion in 2016.

The Rhinelander Ice Association, which operates the facility on Rhinelander's east side, announced last week on its Facebook page it will break ground on a new training center next spring. The majority of the funding for the project was provided through a "large donation from an anonymous donor," the announcement stated.

"It's very exciting," RIA rink manager Brett Aylesworth told the River News. "It's the first time we've had an expansion in a long time here at the Rhinelander Ice Arena."

According to a rough sketch provided to the River News, the two-story addition will be 11,000 square feet in size. Three locker rooms, two showers, a figure skating room, an office and storage space are proposed for the lower level. The upper level would house a storage area, a large shooting range/exercise area and a possible weight room.

The RIA is currently the home of the Rhinelander High School boys' hockey team, the Northern Edge high school girls' hockey co-op, the Rhinelander Figure Skating Club and youth teams that compete under the Rhinelander Ice Association banner. Aylesworth said the addition will benefit all who use the facility. 

"It will help both the home teams and visiting teams," Aylesworth said prior to Saturday night's high school boys' hockey game between Rhinelander and Waupaca. "Right now, before this game Waupaca was looking for a place to warm up and didn't have it. There will be a large, open area available for them to so some warm-ups. Below that will be some nice locker rooms, we'll probably use them as high school locker rooms and turn the current high school locker rooms into some more space for our youth and our visiting teams."

Aylesworth said the ice association's facilities board is in the middle of the planning stages for the project. It hopes to break ground on the expansion next spring and have the addition open by next October, when ice is put in for the 2016-17 winter season. 

"It's a reasonable goal," Aylesworth said. "We'll have to work hard over the next couple of months to get all the plans in place, secure our contractors and all that stuff - get our permits - but I think it's a reasonable expection to be open by next October."

While the association may raise money to renovate the arena's five existing locker rooms, Alyesworth stressed that the expansion, thanks to the donation, will not have an impact on member fees at the RIA. 

"We already do a ton of fundraising for the operational part of the building, but this donation will really help us secure and be a first-class facility for the Northwoods," he said. 

The RIA will host several tournaments this winter, beginning with the Hodagland high school girls' hockey tournament Dec. 28-30. The association will host the Wisconsin Amateur Hockey Association's Peewee 3B state tournament March 12 and 13. Alyesworth said the tournaments provide a boost to the local economy, with visiting teams staying in local hotels and eating at local restaurants.

"We bring a lot of revenue into the community and this will only help us do that even better," he said. "We'll be more appealing for the visiting teams coming and possibly enhance (the schedule), possibly bring in some spring tournaments."

Jeremy Mayo may be reached at jeremy@rivernewsonline.com.


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