Ice arena decision on hold
WCLO's Beth Wheelock reports on progress made toward Janesville's new ice rink.
In other business Tuesday, the Janesville City Council:
-- Approved a liquor license for the former Corvina's bar, 123 E. Milwaukee St. Building owners Jaleh Dabiri and Fred Shahlapour said they want to open a bar there under new management, either their own or someone who would lease the building.
Dabiri said before the meeting that she hoped to have the bar open by mid-October.
Dabiri and Shahlapour formerly operated at that location under the name Hilltop Café.
Frank Perrotto voted against giving them the license, saying he thinks the city has enough bars downtown. He also is concerned the clientele that frequented the establishment earlier this year would return.
-- Approved an outdoor seating area for the Time Out Pub & Eatery, 101 E. Milwaukee St., one block west of Corvina's.
-- Denied an administration request to remove traffic signals at the intersections of Beloit Avenue and State Street and at Academy and Milwaukee streets.
-- Approved proposals to remove traffic signals at four other locations.
JANESVILLE A decision on a new ice arena for Janesville will have to wait.
The city council on Tuesday gave a committee working on a public-private funding plan six more weeks to come up with a proposal.
Larry Squire of the committee asked for more time so the committee could investigate new ideas he did not specify.
In the meantime, the city is looking at a tentative plan for a new ice arena at a cost of $4 million. Private donors and the city would split the cost.
Most if not all council members seemed ready to give the committee more time. But at the same time, council members and City Manager Eric Levitt were concerned about the old building, the Janesville Ice Skating Center.
The old building needs $1.3 million to $1.5 million to upgrade the ice-making system, fix the ice surface and put on a new roof, Levitt said. That money would not address other problems at the site, including a too-small parking lot and not enough seating, and the building would still be 30 years old, Levitt said.
Complicating matters was an apparent division among council members about the site. The proposal on the table would put the new arena on land near the east-side Youth Sports Complex, next to The Janesville Gazette's printing plant.
Council member Yuri Rashkin said he could not support a plan unless the new rink is downtown. Council member Tom McDonald wouldn't go that far, but he urged the administration to seek creative ways to put the rink downtown.
Mark Robinson of the committee said city staff had told him that a site must be 6 acres to 9 acres, because of the need for water detention ponds required of a parking lot. Robinson said sites in the vicinity of downtown, such as land near the Dawson Ball Fields, are not big enough.
Some other vacant sites would not be free, city land, Robinson said. And hilly Rockport Park, which has been proposed, would require vast amounts of fill to be usable.
That said, the committee is open to looking at other sites, Squire said.
Council member Frank Perrotto said he was very interested in the Rockport Park site. He worried the land on the east side should be kept open in case a new business would want it.
Levitt said the council had three choices:
-- Commit to spending $2 million to build a new arena, with a total of $2.5 million if a second ice sheet were added on later.
-- Spend up to $1.5 million to upgrade the existing facility to extend its life at least five to 10 years.
-- Put off any action indefinitely.
In all three cases, the council could face a breakdown that would shut down the old site and/or cause big repair bills on the old site, Levitt said.
Squire told the council the committee has had "good conversations" with potential donors, but to date, no one has stepped forward with a significant pledge, so it does not look as though the committee's plan for starting construction this fall and opening next spring will happen.
The committee is associated with Janesville Youth Hockey.
The city recently spent $200,000 at the current skating center, and the compressor could go down and need replacement at any time, council members noted.
Perrotto said most of the council probably wants a new rink, but he said the problem of what to do and how much to spend on the old arena until a new one is built should be given serious consideration.
"I would have a real problem saying ‘let's have a new roof, and we'll still consider a new ice arena,' Perrotto said. "I would have a real problem voting for that."
Council member Russ Steeber warned of another scenario: If a new arena is not built now, the city will repair the old one, and then in 10 years, the price tag for a new arena will be $8 million, not $4 million.
In a related item Tuesday, the council voted, 4-3, to authorize Levitt to approve advertising in the skating center, but no alcohol ads will be allowed under the ice or on the dasher boards.
Voting against the motion were George Brunner, Bill Truman and Tom McDonald.
The center already features beer advertising on the walls.