One of the keys to any successful sport is having excellent venues for athletes. This month, a huge crowd of media, regional officials and athletes gathered in east central Wisconsin for groundbreaking on a new 20-point biathlon range which will come online at the new Ariens Nordic Center this December. It’s the product of an innovative partnership between U.S. Biathlon and its sponsor, AriensCo, a privately-owned manufacturer of outdoor power equipment.
Highlighting the day were Olympians Paul Schommer and Deedra Irwin, both Wisconsin natives who grew up less than an hour from the new Ariens Nordic Center.
The Ariens Nordic Center is located adjacent to Round Lake Farms on 200 acres at the outskirts of Brillion, just south of Green Bay. It will include a year-round trail network for recreation, training and competition for cross-country skiing, biathlon, roller-skiing, running, hiking, and more. The facility will be open to the public and include lighting, an HKD snowmaking system covering the entire trail network, a paved roller-ski loop for off-season training, a pond for snowmaking and a 20-point biathlon range. Construction began in November 2021. It is expected to open this December.
Over 200 attended the opening at the Round Lake Farm Lodge.
Schommer, who grew up in nearby Appleton, brought a framed Olympic bib for the Ariens leadership. “To see the Ariens family producing and creating this type of venue that will not only introduce kids to the sports of biathlon and cross-country skiing but who will also have the opportunity to train here at a very high level, it’s exciting,” he said. “I’m hopeful we’re going to see more Olympians coming out of this part of the country.”
Irwin, who is from Pulaski just to the north, has become a state sport hero for her advancement this past season in biathlon and competing in Beijing. She was emotional as she spoke about the opportunity the project will bring to so many young athletes in the region.
“It is so incredible to see so many people here today. It takes a lot of people to help build a dream like this,” she said. “I hope to show people you can come from a small farm community in the middle of nowhere and you can make it onto the world stage and live your dreams as a professional athlete or whatever those dreams may be. This venue is going to be really amazing for the Nordic teams from one hour, two hours, even three hours away. You’ll see the U.S. Biathlon Team here a lot too. I’m excited to show our team where we came from.”
The program was led by Ariens President and CEO, Dan Ariens. Over the past three seasons, he has become very personally engaged in the sport including travel to major international competitions. As a sponsor of U.S. Biathlon, Ariens has taken the approach from the start that it wants to be more than just a marketing partner - it wants to help the sport grow.
“I hope after today, you have a better flavor of what we are talking about, what we are building,” said Ariens. “It started as a simple thought and has become a major project and something that I think is really special. We’re grateful for the level of expertise of the individuals – John, Max, Paul, Deedra – who have helped us.”
“It’s a joy for U.S. Biathlon to work with companies like Ariens,” said U.S. Biathlon President and CEO Max Cobb. “The entire company is passionate about biathlon. It’s exciting to see a world-class facility coming to life here in Brillion. You are going to have a four-season trail network that works for everyone. From Olympians like Deedra and Paul to someone on their first-day on skis to someone in their 70s staying active.
“It has meant a lot to U.S. Biathlon to be a partner with Ariens to make this contribution to growing our sport.”
Ariens sought out one of the world’s best trail experts to design the center. Two-time Olympian John Morton, of Morton Trails, was on hand for the opening to showcase the planned trails. He feels the trails will play a role in growing recreational and competitive interest in sport.
“I’ve designed 12 of these kinds of venues around the world,” said Morton, Owner, Morton Trails. “But I think this facility is going to have the most significant positive impact on the community and the region of any of the projects I’ve done.”
The genesis of the project stemmed from what Dan Ariens saw in his travels to learn more about the sport of biathlon.
"Biathlon is an exciting sport and is wildly popular in Europe with recent growth in the U.S.,” said Ariens. “Add that to cross-country skiing’s popularity, which is a time-treasured activity here in Wisconsin, and we think this will be an attractive site. Both sports are great ways to enjoy the outdoors and stay active during the winter."
While the project will provide direct benefits to the Brillion area, its focus is broader. Among the attendees were leaders of sport in the midwest including Central Cross Country Executive Director Yuriy Gusev and American Birkebeiner President and CEO Ben Popp. Also on hand were leaders from collegiate and club programs from around the state.
“One of the most impactful aspects of the Ariens Nordic Center is its ability to help grow the sport in a region where we are already seeing great interest,” said Cobb. “Paul (Schommer) and Deedra (Irwin) have really had an impact in what is already a deeply engaged region for snow sport.”
With the Ariens Nordic Center coming on line this winter, U.S. Biathlon anticipates regional programming could begin this winter.
Paul Schommer presents his Olympic Mixed Relay bib to the Ariens' family
Deedra Irwin, Paul Schommer, Dan Ariens, Max Cobb, and John Morton.