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Janesville ice arena advocates ask for different location

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
January 22, 2010
— A Janesville committee raising money for a $5-million ice arena has asked the council for a new location off Black Bridge Road, saying the previously chosen south side site is hampering fundraising.

The Black Bridge site would include the western-most diamond in the youth baseball facility north of Matheson Street. As a second choice, the committee favors an originally discussed site near the Youth Sports Complex on the east side.


The Janesville Youth Hockey Club Building Committee also is asking the council for permission to sell naming rights to the rink and both sheets of ice. Three potential donors have expressed interest.


The council meets at 7 p.m. Monday in City Hall, 18 N. Jackson St. A public hearing is scheduled before any action.


The council in October approved spending $2 million in public funds for one sheet of ice and another $500,000 for a second sheet if private funds are raised. At that time, council members OK’d a south side site in an industrial park west of Beloit Avenue over the east side site. The council members said they wanted to encourage development on the south side.


The group has until March 1 to raise the first $1.5 million. It hopes to have one sheet of ice operating by the 2010 hockey season.


Council members opted to give the group public money because renovating the old ice rink on Beloit Avenue would cost an estimated $1.5 million. And the city could locate a new fire department on the site of the current ice arena, saving the city $1 million in land costs.


City staff, though, recommends against the Black Bridge location, and one of the concerns is its nearness to homes.


But the hockey committee said the south side location limits its ability to raise donations.


“Many of the companies with whom we met were less than enthusiastic to spend money on a building that would not directly benefit the businesses of Janesville,” members said in a letter.


Potential donors believe out-of-town visitors would arrive at the rink via the bypass and return to the Interstate without ever spending a dollar in the city.


Potential donors prefer the Black Bridge Road site because it is closer to businesses, according to the letter.


The area is on the south side of Black Bridge Road and includes about 13.5 acres, with the building on the most western youth baseball diamond. The land is owned by the city.


The committee’s second choice is the site near the Youth Sports Complex on the east side.


“Although not centrally located, its location is still much preferred by the local business community over the south side site,” the letter said.


City Manager Eric Levitt said all of the locations have advantages and disadvantages but staff has the most concerns about the Black Bridge site.


Levitt’s original recommendation was to put more money into the current ice arena to give the city more time to decide on a location.


Some residents, for example, had hoped to locate the rink downtown, which Levitt said appears to be the preferred location to spur continued redevelopment. But that is also the most expensive option because it involves buying land.


Delaying a decision also affects the siting of the fire station.


“People are trying to fast-track a project of this type of magnitude that would (normally) take a lot longer than a six- to nine-month period, especially in this type of economy,” he said.


BLACK BRIDGE SITE

The building committee of the Janesville Youth Hockey Club is asking the city to consider a site off Black Bridge Road and near the youth baseball diamonds for a new ice arena, but city staff recommends against the Black Bridge site.


The hockey committee prefers the Black Bridge site because it is centrally located with easy access to businesses. The site requires that users get to the rink primarily from Milton Avenue. Downtown businesses also are easily accessible via North Parker Drive.


City staff concerns about the Black Bridge site include:


Streets: Roads must be widened to provide adequate access. Access in and out of the site for hockey games would be a problem.
Land configuration: The site is narrow and long and puts the arena within 100 feet of homes. “Staff has concerns about the impact of this intensive of a use on the surrounding residential area,” according to a staff memo. The close quarters would not allow screening and buffering.
Drainage: Directing storm water to the former nearby landfill might not be possible because of environmental concerns. Drainage also could make the steep hillside unstable, undermining the building and parking lot.
Neighbors: Neighbors recently strongly opposed a dog park on the same city-owned property. They also came out in force against a bar/volleyball proposal. That eventually was approved.
On the agenda

The Janesville City Council will meet at 7 p.m. Monday in City Hall, 18 N. Jackson St.


Items on the agenda include:


-- A public hearing on a new proposal for the location of a new ice rink.


-- Action on a proposal to buy property at 1110 Hamilton Ave., which was flooded in 2008. The home is located in the flood plain. It had a pre-flood value of $80,000 and a post-flood value of $0. The owner cannot rebuild because the property does not have dry-land access. The city tried to get a federal grant to buy the property but was denied because of contamination caused by the former Riverside Plating Co. and because the property is not the owner’s primary residence but was rented. Staff is recommending that the city buy the property for $30,000. Demolition would cost $15,000 and would come from the city’s neighborhood property acquisition fund and $15,000 in parkland acquisition funds.


-- Action on a proposal to buy and rehabilitate foreclosed property at 409 S. Franklin St. Staff proposes that the city buy the property for $25,000 with federal grant money. The property is appraised at $42,000.


-- Action on a request from Kurt Miller to expand the alcohol license currently at the Music Room at 18 S. River St. to the premises at 24 S. River St. Police do not recommend that the expansion be allowed because of concerns that include a Dec. 26 disturbance at the Music Room and arrests made because a bartender is accused of selling alcohol from the unlicensed area.



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