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Auditorium funded by Nelsons under construction at Dells High School

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WDHS auditorium site

The planned auditorium at Wisconsin Dells High School is currently under construction and is slated to be ready for the 2023-24 school year.

Because of a large donation from one of the Dells area’s most prominent families, the recently-built high school is getting a major addition to its campus.

A new auditorium is under construction next to Wisconsin Dells High School just off of Brew Farm Road, a facility that is entirely funded by a $14.5 million donation by the Nelson family. The family, which owns Kalahari Resorts and Conventions in Wisconsin Dells and four other locations around the United States, has remained heavily involved in the School District of Wisconsin Dells.

“The Todd and Shari Nelson Family Foundation views its $14.5 million donation to the School District of Wisconsin Dells to construct a Performing Arts Center as an investment in the overall health of the community,” read a statement from the family.

CG Schmidt, a construction firm based in Milwaukee, is constructing the facility. Todd Nelson and his wife Shari, along with their five children and 13 grandchildren, all attended or will attend school in the district.

“Kalahari’s success is a result of hard work and love and represents my family’s dream come to life,” said Todd Nelson in the statement. “It doesn’t get lost on us how lucky we are — and we are extremely fortunate to pay that good fortune forward to others through our Family’s Foundation.”

“The project is a 32,500-square foot addition that was master planned to match up with the construction of WDHS which opened in the fall of 2020,” said district administrator Terry Slack in an email.

Slack added that the facility, when construction is completed, will have a capacity of 700 and will be utilized by performing groups and other entities besides the schools. He added that the auditorium will feature “state of the art acoustics” and that it will be a valuable asset to the district and the community. It is slated to be finished in time for the start of the 2023-24 school year.

“On behalf of our students and staff we cannot express enough thanks to the Nelson Family for this once-in-a-lifetime gift,” said Slack, who added that the district has a “strong historical tradition” with fine arts and that the project will continue to impact that in a positive manner. “Simply put, it will change kids’ lives in a most positive way!”

The capacity will guarantee a seat for every student and staff member at Wisconsin Dells High School (WDHS) with seats to spare, according to Slack. Events slated to be held at the upcoming auditorium include band and choir concerts and drama productions, as well as dance and piano recitals and other various performances.

“I am continually amazed by our generous and supportive community,” said WDHS principal Allison Hoch in an email. “I am very much looking forward to the first musical and band and choir concerts in the WDHS performing arts center. Our students and music staff are ecstatic about this new space.”

Hoch added that National Honor Society (NHS) events, senior scholarship night, parent and community meetings, and more will be held at the upcoming facility.

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