Club willing to take over new Janesville ice arena

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010
— The idea of privatizing a new Janesville ice arena is gaining momentum.

The Janesville Youth Hockey Club Board held a long discussion Monday night and then voted in favor of taking ownership of a new arena, said Mary Burke, board president.

The board voted that the club would seek to own and manage a new arena if it is built, she said.

“I am so excited. It’s definitely a move in the right direction,” Burke said.

City Manager Eric Levitt said Tuesday the idea is worth considering.

However, Levitt said he wants a consultant to look at the situation first.

Levitt said he will propose to the council Monday night that the operator of an ice arena in another community be brought in to review the data on the Janesville Ice Skating Center and plans for a new ice arena.

The consultant could complete a review within 60 days at a relatively low cost, he said.

This is a good time for a review by a neutral, knowledgeable party because of all the changes that have come up since the idea of a new ice arena was first proposed last spring, Levitt said.

The city owns and runs the aging Janesville Ice Skating Center. Levitt noted that some city council members recently indicated they would consider paying part of construction costs for a new arena and then privatizing the new facility, relieving the city of ongoing costs.

“Where I’m focused right now is, will we participate in building a new rink or not?” Levitt said.

The consultant would advise the city on operations, design of a new facility and the current rink’s problems in case the private fundraising effort falls apart or other problems arise, Levitt said.

The skating center needs up to $1.5 million in repairs, according to information developed locally, but a consultant could advise whether that figure is accurate, Levitt said.

The consultant could also look at revenue and expense potential for both the existing and new rinks, Levitt said, and that information would be valuable to Janesville Youth Hockey, too.

Discussions have raised the question of whether the new arena should have just one sheet of ice or two. Burke said two is a must because the skating center has not been able to handle the increasing demand.

For example, Janesville Youth Hockey teams spent $600 last weekend to use other rinks because ice time was not available here, Burke said.

Burke said youth hockey membership is growing, as is the number of figure skaters, and that’s a good thing.

“As much negative things that are going on in our community right now, good things are happening for kids, which is good for the community’s future,” Burke said.

Seven of the hockey club’s 11 teams qualified for state competition recently, a great achievement considering the competition from Madison and others in the area, Burke noted.

Meanwhile, private fundraisers still face a deadline of March 1 to come up with money to match the city’s $2 million for one sheet or $2.5 million for a two-sheet arena.

Asked about how a private arena would be managed, Burke said everyone with an interest in ice time would be accommodated, but she would not go into details.

“That’s a bridge we have to cross yet in conversations with the city. First we have to get the thing built,” she said. “ ... If we don’t raise the money, there’s no conversation to have.”

The 15-member board’s decision was not unanimous, Burke said. She cited club rules in declining to detail the vote or members’ reservations.

“The board as a whole will support the decision, whether they agreed with it or they didn’t,” Burke said.

Last updated: 12:53 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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