A public input session Thursday for an indoor sports facility study turned into a modern rarity: a room of nearly two dozen people all in agreement.
While the audience was mostly made up of hockey parents, Janesville Jets supporters and others with an interest in building a new facility, support was clear for a multipurpose arena that featured at least one ice rink.
Convention, Sports & Leisure International, the consulting firm hired by Janesville for about $44,000, organized the meeting. The company will analyze the need for a new sports arena with an emphasis on hockey facilities.
Company representatives have been in town since Wednesday. They have met with representatives from Janesville Youth Hockey, Forward Janesville, the Janesville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, and other groups, study leader Bill Krueger said.
Krueger said after the meeting he was pleased with the strong turnout. He said he was not expecting there to be no clear opposition.
Some who attended the session said the current state of the Janesville Ice Arena is dismaying. Built in 1974, the facility contains one ice rink. Having at least two could make the city a hub for youth hockey tournaments, they said.
The existing arena has a packed schedule and forces some youth hockey players to attend late-night practices in Stoughton. A new ice rink was a clear favorite among Thursday’s audience. Many wanted space for at least one other sport. Some suggested making room for basketball, swimming, and track and field.
Krueger said some hockey arenas have multiple rinks but maintain only one year-round. The other rinks are drained during summer and used for other activities.
Krueger was glad to hear suggestions, but he warned about “program creep.” That happens when developers try to cram too much into one facility and make the project untenable, he said.
Krueger said it was too early to talk location. Some suggested transforming a former John Deere warehouse at the corner of Highway 11 and Beloit Avenue on Janesville’s far south side.
Converting that into a sports facility would probably be too difficult, Krueger said; any arena would likely have to be new construction.
He also advised not ruling out certain sites after some said downtown Janesville doesn’t have room for a new arena. He said downtown’s pedestrian-friendly businesses could appeal to out-of-town visitors.
Building on the outskirts of Janesville could be beneficial, too, because it would give the complex plenty of parking and room to expand, Krueger said.
Randy Abraham, an attendee wearing an autographed Jets hat, said he was happy to see community support for a multipurpose hockey arena. Figuring out the second component is the next question, he said.
It’s too early to say how a new facility would be funded, what it would look like or how much it would cost. The company plans to provide an online survey sometime in September to further gauge public opinion.
Krueger expects the unanimous support seen Thursday to meet opposition once the survey goes live.