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Planning underway for Rodli Hall, Ramer Field upgrades

September 24, 2009

UW-River Falls students, faculty and visitors will soon be seeing some much-needed and welcomed changes to facilities on campus.

David “Doc” Rodli, of Albert Lea, Minn., was appointed to the Board of Regents in 1959 and was president of the Board at the time of his death in 1965. According to the UWRF Web site, “Gov. Gaylord Nelson saw the State Colleges as regional institutions and broke with tradition when he appointed a regent who was not a resident of the community in which the college was located.” Regent Rodli led a sort of movement to bring the journalism major to UWRF in 1962. 

Regent Rodli died of a heart attack at age 53. Rodli Commons was dedicated to him on Nov. 17, 1968. After the completion of the new University Center in 2007 and food services was moved out, Rodli Commons was renamed David Rodli Hall and sat vacant until this year when Fast Copy was moved into the lower level of the building. Fast Copy is accessible by only one door, while the rest of David Rodli Hall is inaccessible to those who enter. Some of the space is used for general storage.

Senior Collin O’Brien feels it is a waste of space.

“I think it should either be used for classes, or somehow transformed into a dorm for all the kids who get stuck into overflow housing,” he said.

With the building sitting relatively vacant, questions arose amongst students as to whether it was costing the University a significant amount of money to do nothing with David Rodli Hall. According to Director of Facilities Management Mike Stifter, it’s not.

“The cost of the current utilities is generally offset by Fast Copy,” he said. “Since the building isn’t being used, there aren’t a lot of lights being used, very little water, and not nearly as much heat as if the entire building were being used. It’s thousands of dollars we’re spending compared to tens of thousands.”

The University hopes to utilize the building soon, whether it is within this next year or the next couple of years. According to Stifter, there are many ideas being considered, such as utilizing the space for classrooms or labs, possibly renting it out as an academic setting for Chippewa Valley Technical College, or for possible retail ventures such as a hair salon or other business that would cater to the student body. Officials are waiting to make a conscious decision on how to utilize the space after the results of a feasibility study are known. 

The initial plan is to utilize the old meeting rooms as soon as possible once the restrooms are repaired. The next plan is to use the building as a whole, possibly for labs or classes. The University’s concerns are how to fund any remodeling, what the overall cost will be, how long it will take and ultimately what resources are needed for the long-term operation of the building. 

Another change to come to UWRF is the approximate $4 million renovation of Ramer Field. UWRF, as well as UW schools in Platteville, Eau Claire, Oshkosh, Stout, Whitewater, LaCrosse and Stevens Point, share their stadiums with local high schools. However, UWRF is the only one that has not recently updated their stadium, the turf, or both.

Built in 1967, Ramer Field, in its current condition, is in need of multiple upgrades. The stadium project is planned to be completed in four phases starting in 2010 and be totally dependent upon fund-raised dollars. The plan includes enclosing the existing bleachers, building a new concession stand and restrooms, replacing the existing lights and moving them behind the bleachers and installing new landscaping around the field. Athletic Director Rick Bowen said he is passionate about the project.

“Go to the other schools we compete against. While everybody else has made improvements, we’ve sat on our hands,” he said. 

Currently, the project has raised $1.3 million. Phase one, the installation of the four energy efficient light poles, is expected to be executed in 2010. Phase two should follow in 2011, and phases three and four will be completed as soon as the money comes in. Synthetic turf is replacing the natural grass at Ramer Field to allow an increased amount of activities to be held at the stadium, such as intramural sports.  Sophomore Joel Yogerst has mixed feelings about Ramer in its current condition.

“Playing at Ramer is bittersweet,” he said. “It is always nice to have a home game, however, when compared to all the other schools in our conference, it is ancient.”

Sophomore Kyle Holmes feels the renovated field would increase interest in UWRF.

“I do feel it is in a dire need of a renovation and should switch to field turf as soon as possible, not only for the fact of having a new stadium, but it would help a tremendous amount with recruiting and getting kids to come play at River Falls,” he said. “Plus, it is a lot safer and you can use it’s for multi-purpose such as soccer with little maintenance.”

Junior Joe Ganske agrees UWRF absolutely needs to renovate Ramer Field.

“We probably have the worst field in the conference,” he said. “The new field will be a great addition to this already great campus.”