JANESVILLE — The cost for the proposed ice arena and convention center at the Uptown Janesville Mall, as well as how it will be paid for, remained unclear during a forum Thursday evening.
The forum, hosted by the non-partisan, good government group Rock County Citizen Civics Academy comes ahead of the Nov. 28, 2022 city council meeting where an update on the project is on the agenda.
The council meeting will be held 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 28, 2022 at Janesville City Hall.
The project, known as the The Woodman’s Sports and Convention Center, calls for one permanent sheet of ice, one removable sheet, convention space and an indoor youth sports area in the vacant Sears location in the mall.
The primary tenant will be Janesville Jets junior hockey team, which currently plays at the aging Ice Arena facility near downtown.
Since the project was first proposed in 2018, estimates for the cost have risen to nearly $60 million.
But the lack of information on costs and a clear plan for coming up with the money is frustrating city council member Heather Miller, one of the panelists at the forum.
“People are getting frustrated because things are changing, the numbers have changed substantially,” Miller said.
Bill McCoshen, owner and president of the Janesville Jets, said he expects to bring updated drawings, updated costs and an updated economic impact statement to the council meeting on Nov. 28. That would be in addition to costs for an average household and comparison figures for a single sheet of ice, according to Attorney Tim Lindau, representing RockStep Capital, owners of Uptown Janesville, another one of the panelists.
“We want some numbers that are real,” Miller said. “We’re all well aware of the changes, but we’re seeing things fluctuate so much, and depending on who you talk to, the information changes.”
McCoshen said this project will lead to more business, to more sports activity, for more business to come here and for more young families to want to be here.
“In economic development, that would be a home run,” he said.
Angela Pakes, president of Forward Janesville, said the project would be a big benefit to talent recruitment for area businesses. “This is a great example of a third space that Janesville doesn’t have.”
Lindau agreed that the project would be unique for a community like Janesville.
“The idea is for a community of our type to be able to have a complex that incorporates all of these multiple uses is exciting and gives us a competitive advantage.”
Inflation has pushed the cost of the project up substantially, with recent estimates in the $50 million to $60 million range.
Although the former Janesville City Manager floated the idea of contributing $15 million, the council has never voted on a funding commitment.
McCoshen said $9 million has been raised by the private fundraising group, and they are hoping for additional state or federal funding, but none of that is firm at this point.
As for the Jets specifically, McCoshen declined to commit. He said the team’s investment depends on what the facility looks like and what all the costs will be. “That will be answered before the city council takes a vote, that I can commit to you,” he said.
“I would like to make sure we’re all on the same page going forward,” Miller said. “Teenagers need something to do and this would fit perfectly in that mold, but we also have to be sensitive to those folks who are on that fixed income. How do we justify that $20 million expense when you are living in a one-bedroom home trying to make ends meet?”
Ultimately, moderator Rich Gruber said, the council will need to answer four basic questions: What are we building, how much is it going to cost, how are we going to pay for it and how are we going to maintain it going forward.