The city council on Monday authorized city staff to begin negotiations with Janesville Mall owner RockStep Capital to locate an indoor sports complex at the shopping center, but there remains some uncertainty surrounding private fundraising efforts.
The city council voted 6-1 to allow the negotiations and to confirm that the mall is the city’s preferred site for such a complex.
Council President Rich Gruber was the sole opposing vote. He suggested an amendment that failed on a 5-2 vote to name Christine Rebout, executive director for the Janesville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, the person to oversee private fundraising for the project.
Rebout said she would have to talk to her board of directors before committing to such a role but tentatively said she could give the council updates and facilitate fundraising meetings.
Gruber said it is difficult for the council to commit to the sports complex project without having any idea how much funding the private sector could provide or without knowing who to call with questions about fundraising. Having an intermediary would provide accountability and would be in the best interest of taxpayers, he said.
The visitors bureau is the only agency so far to commit to the project, which led Gruber to recommend the group for leading the fundraising effort, he said.
Other council members thought discussing the logistics of private fundraising was needed but not appropriate during discussions about site selection.
Councilor Doug Marklein encouraged anyone interested in creating a group to facilitate fundraising for the complex to come forward in the near future.
Councilor Tom Wolfe said he thought Janesville Jets President Bill McCoshen was going to lead fundraising after a city council study session where McCoshen said he did not think it would be possible to raise half of the funds needed to build the complex.
The proposed indoor sports complex is estimated to cost $33 million. City officials have suggested the project could be funded through a 50/50 private/public partnership, but McCoshen said a private financial commitment of that size would be difficult to secure.
The city council will get an update on private fundraising before February, when the council is slated to commit to a design phase, said Jen Petruzzello, neighborhood and community services director.
There will be no additional expenditures for the city related to sports complex planning between now and then, she said.
Councilor Jim Farrell asked that fundraising updates be detailed with dollar amounts and names of donors.
City staff will negotiate with RockStep to nail down a specific site for the proposed complex, parking and other concerns.
Mall officials have said the site of the former JCPenney store will be the least complicated for construction.
City Manager Mark Freitag said during the study session last month that a location on the mall property could drive fundraising. He also suggested the former Sears site could be another option for a sports complex.
The site will need 700 parking spots to accommodate the complex’s busiest days, Petruzzello said.
The mall has that many spots, but it has to be determined whether the current parking configuration would work with the complex, she said.