A preliminary rendering shows hockey players playing on the main ice sheet and the stands at a proposed indoor sports complex at Uptown Janesville. Woodman’s Food Market, the project’s main private sponsor, has kicked in an additional $1 million, boosting the $50 million project’s private-side funding to $5.6 million. Woodman’s previously had committed $2 million for main naming rights for the arena.
JANESVILLE—The Woodman’s Sports and Convention Center got an additional $1 million boost Wednesday from the locally-headquartered grocer that already has naming rights for the proposed project at the Uptown Janesville mall.
Local private booster group Friends of the Indoor Sports and Convention Center on Wednesday announced that Janesville-based Woodman’s Food Market has pledged another $1 million toward the 130,000-square-foot arena, sports center and convention hall proposed on the site of a former Sears store at 2500 Milton Ave.
It’s the second major financial pledge Woodman’s has made for the project, bringing its total pledge up to $3 million. And it lifts the friends group’s private-side fundraising total to $5.6 million, about 10% of the public-private project’s estimated $50 million price tag.
Larry Squire, a local banker and a member of the friends group, said it edges the fundraising closer to the $9 million the group has set as its private fundraising goal—the largest private sector capital campaign in Janesville’s history.
Woodman’s earlier had committed $2 million to the project, but that was at a time when the arena and convention center was estimated to cost about $30 million.
Woodman’s President Clint Woodman said his company wanted to up its financial support amid inflation that has driven the overall price tag for the project higher as it enters the winter with consultants about halfway through a design phase.
“Over the last few years, we have all experienced an inflationary environment like never before. We know that this has greatly impacted the cost to construct the Woodman’s Sports and Convention Center. Knowing the importance and transformational nature of this project, we remain committed and are excited to announce that we will increase our contribution from $2 million to $3 million,” Woodman said in a statement.
Current plans for the Woodman’s Center include two sheets of ice and a flexible space for conventions and other indoor sports.
Naming rights for the main ice sheet and the flex space have already been secured via financial commitments by two other Janesville entities, Mercyhealth and the Kennedy Family Foundation, the friends group announced earlier.
Squire said the latest funding pledge from Woodman’s comes as private interest in the naming rights for the facility’s second ice sheet grows.
“I’d say we’re in a very positive spot now,” Squire said.
The city of Janesville is pursuing a slew of grants and pandemic relief funding, including a formal request for $10 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds that Gov. Tony Evers controls.
Janesville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Christine Rebout, a member of both the friends group and an ad hoc city steering committee for the project, said the grant funding requests don’t have a definite window on when they might be awarded.
Rebout said city officials and friends group members have conduits to update grant administrators, including Evers’ office, when the Janesville groups reach new milestones such as Woodman’s latest $1 million commitment.
Groups involved in ushering the plan to completion, including the city, the friends group, and Uptown Janesville’s owner, RockStep Capital, plan Monday night to give the Janesville City Council an update on the project and plans for it.
Squire said he is as excited now as he was when a private fundraising group raised $6 million to support the ARISE Town Square, a park and public event space on the downtown riverfront that was the centerpiece of a larger revitalization effort.
Squire said the project could be as transformative to the Milton Avenue retail corridor and Uptown Janesville, the city’s struggling indoor shopping mall, as the Town Square has been to the downtown.
He said he now walks a few blocks from his office downtown to the Town Square a couple of times a week to have coffee in the same spot that a few years ago was covered by an aging concrete parking deck over the Rock River.
Now weekend events take place on both sides of the riverfront, and in tandem, the downtown has seen a resurgence in retail and dining.
“Compare what we’ve transformed in downtown to what you could see happen at the mall and the retail area there,” Squire said. “This could be, it will be, more transformational for the whole community and for the region.”
Sign up for our Daily Update & Weekend Update email newsletters!
Get the latest news, sports, weather and more delivered right to your inbox.