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Governor includes $15 million for Woodman's Center in proposed state capital budget

JANESVILLE — Gov. Tony Evers has included $15 million in his proposed state capital budget to help construct the Woodman’s Sports and Convention Center in Janesville, Evers announced during a visit Tuesday.

The state funding is part of $3.8 billion in recommended investments included in Evers’ proposed 2023-25 capital budget.

It follows the announcement in December that the Woodman’s Center, envisioned to be built at the Uptown Janesville mall on Milton Avenue, had been awarded $5 million in federal funding through the U.S. Senate’s Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023. That’s the federal government’s $1.7 trillion annual funding bill.

The current estimate to construct the Woodman’s Center on the site of a shuttered Sears department store at Uptown Janesville is at least $50 million. Some of that would be covered by private donations, including $3 million pledged by Woodman’s Market for naming rights, and by up to $17.3 million the city council has voted to borrow for the project.

The governor’s capital budget proposal must still be approved by the State Building Commission, by the legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance and then by the full legislature as a part of the 2023-2025 state biennial budget.

Evers said in a release prior to his appearance Tuesday at the downtown offices of the Janesville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, that his proposal to fund $1.9 billion of the capital projects instead of borrowing for them will save taxpayers nearly $1 billion in future debt payments.

During Tuesday’s appearance, Evers said the $15 million for the Woodman’s Center will augment private fundraising, federal grants, and city of Janesville borrowing to build a facility that will host conventions, community events and sports competitions.

Evers said the Woodman’s Center is exactly what the capital budget is designed to support. He said it will draw crowds from big cities like Chicago and will drive traffic to local hotels and restaurants.


Janesville City Council President Paul Benson said at Tuesday’s event that the Woodman’s Center will be “transformational” for the city. Everyone is competing for jobs and workers and this project will make Janesville stand out, Benson said.

Benson said when operational, the center is expected to make a $23 million annual local economic impact, continuing “an amazing decade of growth and progress here.”

“Cities and states are always rising or falling; if you think you can just tread water and maintain the status quo you are probably falling behind,” Benson said. “The Woodman’s Center is the exact kind of amenity that is going to help keep and attract our best and brightest right here in Janesville.”

“It will rejuvenate the Milton Avenue corridor and make sure we aren’t known as the city with a dead mall in the middle of it.”


State Rep. Sue Conley, D-Janesville, state Sen. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, and other local leaders joined Evers as he announced the proposed Woodman’s Center investment.

In addition to its expected $23 million annual economic impact, the Woodman’s Center is expected to generate 228 new full and part-time jobs and over 400 construction jobs, Conley said in a release.

“I was thrilled to join Gov. Evers today as he made this announcement. The positive community and economic development impact will be a valuable asset to the city of Janesville and the greater Rock County community,” Conley’s release said. “This project will help make Janesville a destination for young athletes and their families and make hosting conventions possible.”

“This $15 million investment is critical to completing the Woodman’s Sports and Convention Center project, a central piece of the redevelopment of Uptown Janesville and the whole Milton Avenue corridor. From hosting conventions and events to bringing young athletes and their families to Janesville, this facility will help Janesville and Rock County continue to be a leading destination in the region and promote economic growth,” Spreitzer said in a release.


Linda Ross, fund development director at KANDU Industries, Inc. in Janesville, said KANDU clients love being out in the community and love being part of the Special Olympics.

But there hasn’t been a place in Janesville for clients to go and participate in Special Olympics for many years; they have had to drive to Madison or Rockford.

“It’s very fulfilling for them to be able to be a part of the Special Olympics,” but without a local facility, participation is limited, Ross said. The Woodman’s Center would be a new local space they could use, Ross said.

Sean Knott is a member of Friends of the Woodman’s Center, a private group that has backed its construction and announced in mid-February it would shift a capital campaign it launched in 2021 to privately raise $9 million for the planned ice arena, sports arena and convention hall at Uptown Janesville on Milton Avenue.

The group said that it now has $6 million in hand, largely through major corporate commitments for naming rights at the facility. It hopes now to shift toward a more public-facing campaign to try to amass the final few million a steering committee of private backers had set out to raise.

Knott said the proposed state funds are not only a big deal for the city but also for his family. Knott said his children are in many different sports and he must drive them to Green Bay or Madison to compete.

He said a local facility for sports is “next level”.

“If you don’t invest in yourself, just like any other business, you are going to get left behind,” Knott said. “That’s what Janesville is doing, it’s investing in itself.”

Capital plan

Evers’ capital budget recommendations include:

  • $1.8 billion for capital improvements at University of Wisconsin System campuses across the state;
  • Investments in state parks and forests and upgraded fire response ranger stations;
  • Upgrades to the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King and purchasing the Wisconsin Veterans Museum location for future upgrades;
  • Nearly $50 million to restore and make improvements to the State Capitol building;
  • Continued investment in correctional facilities to further work toward closing Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake juvenile facilities;
  • $225 million for health services facilities;
  • $84 million for Wisconsin National Guard facilities;
  • $60 million for a new Wisconsin History Museum;
  • $25 million for renewable energy at state facilities;
  • $616 million to address deferred maintenance for all state agencies;
  • Supporting local community projects including the Woodman’s Center;

In a release Tuesday, Evers said the recommended investments will help grow the economy by providing family-supporting jobs and supporting businesses throughout the state.

“Our budget is all about investing in the future of our people, our communities, and our state to bolster our workforce, prepare our state and our economy for the future, and maintain our economic momentum by building our economy from the ground up. Our historic surplus means we have historic opportunity and responsibility — to invest in key projects that have long been neglected while still staying well within our means, keeping borrowing low, and saving taxpayers money in the long run, and that’s exactly what our Capital Budget does,” the release said

Evers said Tuesday in Janesville that UW and state facilities are in particularly desperate need of repair.

“These projects are not only needed to bring our state’s infrastructures to the 21st century but to ensure our public facilities are functional and safe,” he said.