Janesville55.2°

Council backs ice arena

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
October 27, 2009
— If all goes according to plan, a $5-million ice arena with two sheets of ice will stand on the city's south side within two years.

The Janesville City Council on Monday partnered with the Janesville Youth Hockey Club, promising $2 million if the club raises $1.5 million to build an arena with one sheet of ice. The club would then raise another $1 million and the city would chip in another $500,000 for a second sheet.


After the meeting, Larry Squire, one of the effort's organizers, said the hard work begins now. And while he has no firm financial commitments, Squire said there has been much interest among people waiting for Monday's vote.


The vote to build the new arena was 5-2, with Yuri Rashkin and Frank Perrotto voting no. Voting yes were Kathy Voskuil, Russ Steeber, Tom McDonald, George Brunner and Bill Truman.


The vote to build the rink on the south side was 6-1, with Steeber voting no.


The council gave the group until March 1 to raise the first $1.5 million. The group hopes to break ground in March and have at least one sheet of ice ready for the 2010 hockey season.


Several council members said they voted for the south side because it might be easier to market the rink to other communities, such as Beloit, and bring in more revenue.


Two sheets are needed to provide enough ice time to do that. Two sheets also are needed to allow the city to attract tournaments and to better accommodate its many potential users, Squire said.


The location of a new central fire station was another piece of the puzzle that influenced some council votes.


The city has narrowed the location for the fire station to three spots, one of which is the site of the current ice rink on Beloit Avenue. While that location might not be ideal, the city does own the land, City Manager Eric Levitt said.


To buy land could cost more than $1 million, he said.


In making its decision, council members asked the question "Do we spend $1.5 million on an older facility or do we spend another million to build one that would better serve the community?" And if they throw in any eventual savings from the fire station, it could be a wash.


The current ice rink is being held together by "Band-Aids and duct tape," Steeber said.


McDonald said the current ice arena is highly used, more so than any other city facility and with less of a subsidy per participant.


Truman noted that 400 kids could have been skating on a second sheet of ice just last Friday, when the ice was otherwise occupied.


"If we knew for sure this was going to be the site for the fire station, it would make it a whole lot easier for us," he said.


As for the location, the majority of council members said the east and south sides would work just as well. But most said it is time to focus some development on the south side.


"The east side has been the major focus of growth in the city, as far as I can tell, for many, many years," Perrotto said. "To be fair to this entire city, we need to focus in on the west side and the south side."


The bypass makes the location even more ideal, Perrotto said, adding he could see the potential for a motel nearby.


Voskuil, too, said the south side location is a great opportunity for the city to work collaboratively with neighboring communities.


Squire said the city might be able to save money on parking because of existing space in the Youth Sports Complex on the east side. But staff had not done a cost analysis, and Brad Cantrell, community development director, thought there might be industrial parking that could be used on the south side.


Brunner said it only seems a matter of time before gas stations and restaurants are built on the south side interchange.


Truman said he prefers a downtown location. But buying property to clear enough land would increase the money that needs to be raised, Squire said.


No matter where the arena is built, people will have to get in their cars and drive, Truman said.


Steeber voted for the east side location, saying that the site was more accessible and was closer to other amenities.



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