Dane County recently enlisted a real estate developer to conduct a study on possible developments or renovations to the Alliant Energy Center to turn it from a dilapidation into a destination.
The county will work with Hammes Co. to determine what to do to update the run-down Alliant Energy Center Coliseum, Dane County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Corrigan said.
The proposition includes a new arena, which would replace the current coliseum.
The new arena would serve as a mixed-use facility, more suitable for hosting a variety of large acts and expos, Scott McDonell, Dane County clerk, said. The new arena would have 8,000 to 10,000 seats, similar to the current coliseum, which has 10,000 seats.
A history of hockey
There are several components to the Alliant Energy Center campus, including recently constructed pavilions, an exhibition hall, an arena building and the coliseum, Corrigan said. The coliseum, built in 1967, is the second-oldest component of the campus.
The coliseum used to be home to the University of Wisconsin hockey team, McDonell said. When the UW hockey team first moved to the Kohl Center, the team paid the county for loss of revenue, an agreement which is now expired. Since then, he said there has been a notable decrease in the number of events put on at the coliseum.
The design of the building is centered around hockey, which makes hosting other events there a challenge, McDonell said. There is no appropriate location for performing bands to prepare for shows, which prevents well-known acts from coming to the coliseum.
“The ice shows and concerts have really dried up, which is directly related to the condition of the building,” McDonell said.
A black hole for tax dollars
Previously, the center was entirely self-sustained, which prevented tax dollars from funding its upkeep.
With the decrease in events, however, the county has been forced to use their general funds to maintain the facility, McDonell said.
“The center was originally designed to pay for itself, and now we are having to subsidize it,” McDonell said. “That means we have to cut services in the county to keep the center going, and we really don’t want to do that.”
The search for “new money” in a sea of competition
The center faces tough competition from other cities like Milwaukee and Green Bay, both of which boast “campuses” that are designed to serve as a destination. When important acts plan their tours, they frequently skip over Madison as a result of having no viable place to perform at, Corrigan said.
Losing these events that draw crowds from outside the city negatively impacts the economy. Attracting visitors from other areas introduces income to Madison that would not be present otherwise, which is vital in terms of helping the entire community, Corrigan said.
In order to create new revenue, the proposed plan calls on private investors to work with the county to create other businesses on the campus, McDonell said.
Private investment on the campus could total up to $300 million. Retail, restaurants, office space and a hotel are all in consideration as potential additions to the facility, McDonell said.
Just the beginning
While the study has offered a promising start, Corrigan emphasized this is merely the beginning of the process.
“These recommendations aren’t saying ‘go do this,’” Corrigan said. “They are serving as an analysis and data that we can use to make the next decisions.”
The Alliant Energy Center Strategic Design Committee will further discuss the proposal, with more specific plans forthcoming.