Janesville’s pursuit of a new indoor sports complex passed another checkpoint Monday after the city council unanimously authorized spending $25,000 for the building’s design and business plan development phase.
The council also narrowed the list of potential sites to three—the Janesville Mall, a vacant lot near the intersection of Wright Road and Milwaukee Street, and a vacant lot between the Janesville Youth Sports Complex and W.W. Grainger.
Borrowing $25,000 will cover half the costs for the design and business plan phase. The Janesville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau is covering the other $25,000.
The two organizations split the cost of a survey and feasibility study last year to gauge public interest in the project. The survey was largely supportive, and most respondents believed replacing the Janesville Ice Arena was necessary.
Public support continued Monday night. Five people spoke in favor of a new facility, which is expected to have one permanent ice rink, a temporary rink that could be removed for other sports and additional flexible space.
One of the speakers was RockStep Capital President Andy Weiner, whose company has owned the mall for about a year. Weiner said RockStep was open to bringing the sports complex to the mall.
Malls are searching for new ways to remain viable as retail continues to shift online. A sports complex would fit nicely and help ensure the building’s viability “for the next 30 to 40 years,” Weiner said.
He added that RockStep is in talks to buy the former Sears building, the only part of the mall not under RockStep control. That would create another possible arena location at the site, in addition to the former Boston Store on the other side of the mall.
Earlier this month, a steering committee reduced possible public and private sites to four—the mall, the site on Wright Road, Palmer Park and Marling Lumber near downtown.
The council dropped the latter two sites Monday. Putting the facility in Palmer Park received overwhelming public opposition, and Marling Lumber had an odd site configuration and flooding concern, council members agreed.
They added the Grainger/youth sports complex site to the mix, but that land is not yet guaranteed to be available, Neighborhood and Community Services Director Jennifer Petruzzello said.
All three locations will receive site-specific designs. That will help the city refine the facility’s cost estimate, which was initially projected to cost about $29 million, she said.
Once the design and business plan phase is finished, the city will need to explore a public-private partnership for construction funding and eventually settle on a location, Petruzzello said.