JANESVILLE

The city plans to conduct a feasibility study on a new sports complex to replace the Janesville Ice Arena, and the facility could feature more than a couple of new ice rinks.

The Janesville City Council on Monday approved the 2018-22 strategic plan, which includes completing in 2018 a feasibility study on an indoor sports complex. The study will cost up to $50,000, of which the Janesville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau will pay half, officials said.

The study is the first step toward a possible two-sheet ice arena. The Janesville Ice Arena has only one rink, but having two could boost tourism significantly, officials said.

“I’m very excited about it,” said Janesville Jets President Bill McCoshen. “We’re happy to call the Janesville Ice Arena home and have for nine years, but obviously a new facility could generate more potential for the Jets long term.

“I think all the user groups of the facility would like to see a new facility in town if possible,” he said.

A two-sheet arena would allow Janesville to host more games and tournaments during the winter months when hotel vacancy is higher, said Christine Rebout, visitors bureau executive director.

The city and bureau mutually decided that the bureau would chip in for the study. The bureau is interested in bringing economy-boosting groups to the city, and that’s what a new sports complex would do, Rebout said.

Drawing more out-of-area teams and fans to Janesville would funnel money to local restaurants, grocers, gas stations and more, McCoshen said.

“It would have a significant impact on the community,” he said. “There’s enormous potential.”

The ice arena is so heavily used, especially by the Jets and Janesville Youth Hockey, that other local hockey teams must practice elsewhere. For instance, Milton High School’s team practices and plays games in Stoughton, McCoshen said.

A new two-rink complex would allow more teams to practice in Janesville. If both rinks are full size, two games could be played simultaneously, he said.

The city will issue a request for proposals for a group to conduct the study before spring. The group will assess the need for a new ice arena and other potential indoor recreational uses, said Jennifer Petruzzello, Janesville’s neighborhood and community services director.

McCoshen said there’s been talk of including an indoor soccer arena in the complex. Petruzzello mentioned soccer as well, along with walking paths, tracks and indoor play spaces.

“There’s an unlimited number of recreational activities it could include at this point,” she said.

The Jets realize building a new complex would require “significant” private-sector funding. The project wouldn’t be entirely funded by Janesville taxpayers, McCoshen said.

This isn’t the first time Janesville has considered a new ice arena.

Around 2009, Janesville Youth Hockey members and business leaders looked into building a new facility. Their research didn’t include a feasibility study, so the plans died, McCoshen said.

The Jets weren’t involved at the time because they were new in town and wanted to make sure they could sustain themselves first. Now in their ninth season, the Jets want to be involved, he said.

“This time, we think it’s in the community’s best interest because the community that figures this out first in Rock County is going to get the biggest benefit from it,” McCoshen said at a recent Janesville City Council meeting.

“This is a broader approach than attempted seven years ago, and it will be data-driven,” he said.

Beloit officials last year looked into building an ice arena but never publicly released their findings. Reports suggested the city couldn’t sustain the cost of a new facility, McCoshen said.

The Janesville Ice Arena was built in 1974 and last renovated in 2012. Improvements included geothermal ice-making equipment, removal of the old concrete ice rink, a locker room addition, a new roof and more, Petruzzello said.

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