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"Remarkable" Sports Collection Displayed At Rhinelander-Oneida County Airport

Credit WXPR
Football legend Vince Lombardi's autograph

There's a signed picture of Vince Lombardi. Jim Taylor's jersey is there signed by Packers greats, including Brett Favre. A signed picture of Reggie White. There's even a Super Bowl ring. That and more is permanently on display at the Rhinelander-Oneida County Airport.

Sports  collectors Bill and Pat Spars wanted to donate a portion of their collection to the Rhinelander airport and made the offer that was accepted by the city and the airport commission. After a remodeling, the display was unveiled Thursday.

Former airport commission chair Bob Heck said the collection is remarkable...

"...The Spars have spent a lifetime collecting sports memorabelia, and as you will see, it is absolutely astounding. This memorabelia is limited to not only autographed pictures but also the helmets, footballs, trading cards, Super Bowl ring..."

Heck says the relationship between the Spars and former Mayor Dick Johns facilitated the donation. The commission and past director Joe Brauer help bring about the new display.

Bill Spars tried out for the Packers in the mid-1960's and didn't make the team. But he says collecting Packers and other items kept him in touch with the players he met...

"...and I wanted to remember them, and they're all my friends. Bob Long and some of the late players, Bobby Jeter, Forrest Gregg, Bart Starr, Jim Taylor. They're all friends and that's the way it all started..."

The Rhinelander airport has  a bust of famous college coach, John Heisman. Heisman is buried in Rhinelander.

New airport director Matthew Leitner is impressed..

"...There's an entrance at Yellowstone National Park that reads, "For the Benefit And Enjoyment of the People". That's exactly what it is, for the benefit and enjoyment of the people..."

There are other pieces along with the Packers items, including a signed picture of Chicago Bears great Sid Luckman. Outside of football are items from basketball legend Michael Jordan and Chicago Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa and many others.

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