A proposed indoor sports complex with a $33 million price tag has raised questions about who could oversee private fundraising for such a massive project.
Bill McCoshen has an answer.
A group of a dozen or so business leaders has created Friends of the Indoor Sports Complex, a fundraising group that will try to secure private donations to help build the complex.
McCoshen, president of the Janesville Jets, the junior hockey team that calls the Janesville Ice Arena home, announced the group’s formation last week.
The Friends group will funnel the money it raises through the Janesville Foundation. It will devise a fundraising strategy at its first meeting in December, McCoshen said.
City officials have suggested that the $33 million project could be funded through a 50-50 private/public partnership.
In October, McCoshen said he did not believe the private sector could raise half the amount needed for the project. In a recent interview, he said he stands by that statement but hopes the private sector will surprise him.
The group hopes to raise $8 million to $12 million in the next six months and to have major commitments locked in by the end of February, McCoshen said.
If the private sector cannot raise enough to offset what the city would be willing to borrow, the city council must decide whether to change the scope of the project, he said.
“I think it is critical for the project we all be as transparent as possible,” McCoshen said. “I do not want to oversell it, and I don’t think anyone on this committee does.”
A small nucleus in the group has been working on fundraising for the last couple of months and has met privately with potential donors, McCoshen said. He declined to offer more details.
The Friends group will start fundraising by securing naming rights for the complex, each of the two ice rinks and the flexible court space, McCoshen said.
At its Nov. 12 meeting, the city council authorized city staff to begin negotiations with Janesville Mall owner RockStep Capital to locate the sports complex at the mall.
Mall officials have said the former JCPenney store on the east side of the mall—a location not visible from the Milton Avenue business corridor—would be the easiest space for construction.
McCoshen told The Gazette he does not think the project will attract as many private dollars if it is tucked away in the back of the mall.
“People want their name in lights,” he said. “There is going to have to be visibility.”
RockStep’s role in fundraising efforts must be hashed out in negotiations with the city and is not part of the Friends group conversation, McCoshen said.
The Janesville Jets’ contribution will be on the operational side, McCoshen said. The Jets are willing to work with higher fees and changes in their lease agreement if they can play in a new facility, he said.
The Jets and Janesville Youth Hockey, the two main users of the ice arena, have two members each in the Friends group.
UW-Whitewater’s interim athletic director is also a member.
When asked whether UW-Whitewater is being considered a user of the complex, McCoshen said he hasn’t had that conversation with the university yet. However, UW-Whitewater used to send its club ice hockey team to the Janesville Ice Arena.
Janesville residents often have envied Beloit, their neighbor to the south, because the city has a couple of donors with deep pockets to help it build big projects.
Most recently, Janesville native and philanthropist Quint Studer announced plans to build a new Beloit Snappers baseball stadium in the city with help from billionaire Diane Hendricks.
Janesville is a “community of donors” with a long history of supporting important initiatives, McCoshen said.
Rather than having one or two major donors, the sports complex likely will be a community effort and something everyone can be proud of, he said.