By WCLO - August 25th 2023



We finally know how much money the Janesville Jets intend to contribute towards the proposed $50.3 million indoor athletic and conference center at Uptown Janesville.

President Paul Benson says the Janesville City Council will consider a 10-year lease agreement for the minor league hockey team’s non-exclusive use of the Woodman’s Sports and Convention Center at their meeting Monday night.

According to a memo in the City Council agenda, the Jets would contribute $390,000 towards construction, as well as another $100,000 a year for 10 years out of their add revenue to help cover operating expenses.

Benson says there will also be roughly $15,000 to $20,000 in alcohol sales, more money for concession sales, and the Jets plan on purchasing an additional 100 hours of ice time valued at $25,000.

The offer comes as the city and private entities wait to learn whether the project will receive about $15 million in state funding the city still needs to fully fund the project.

In comments to the Big Radio newsroom on Friday, Benson said it’s unlikely the city will have new estimates on what it’d cost annually to operate the facility.

Benson said numbers the city worked with earlier that showed a possible $30,000 annual operational cost to run the Woodman’s Center are “5 years old.”

He pointed out the average cost for labor and other expenses has changed significantly since then.

One consultant the city hired last fall indicated it would likely cost far more than $30,000 to operate the facility.

However, the city has not formally agreed to undertake operations of the facility, although officials have said it’s possible a third-party facility manager would run the Woodman’s Center. That would be similar to how the city jobs out operations of its municipal golf course to third party management group Kemper Sports.

The city hasn’t given an updated estimate of when the city council might vote on contractor bids to build the landmark project, and the council has not voted on whether to build the project.

That’ll depend largely on cost and whether the city’s got a full idea of how and whether the project’s price tag will be fully funded.

Earlier, the city had estimated that vote could come in September, but Benson hinted Friday that the timeline almost certainly will slide—an acknowledgement City Manager Kevin Lahner raised in a Big Radio News interview earlier this month.

A hold-up on a council vote on whether to build the Woodman’s Center centers largely on a shift in timing of when the city might learn more about when its prospects for some of a $50 million pot of money Gov. Tony Evers said he’d add to the state budget for public-private building projects.

It’s not fully clear whether Evers’ promised cash would come through a grant program or other funding source. Benson said the city’s not yet heard details from the governor’s office of exactly how the city could pursue funding, or whether the city could pursue a full $15 million through the governor’s new earmarks.

That $15 million accounts for the current shortfall in funding for the project. That shortfall opened up when lawmakers working on the state budget chopped millions of dollars of funding that Evers had earmarked early this year for building projects including the Woodman’ Center.

Benson said the governor’s office is aware the city aimed to launch the project this fall at the footprint of the former Sears store.

The first work would be for the city to tear down the Sears building; that’s work the city said could roll out in the winter if the project winds up on a delayed timetable.

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