Officials disagreed with county executive Joe Parisi’s insistence the county cannot afford to redevelop the aging Alliant Energy Center.
Dane County clerk Scott McDonell said investment in the center is overdue and necessary for it to be competitive. County supervisor Leland Pan, District 5, said Parisi’s fiscal reservations on the project are unfounded.
The development is estimated to cost around $500 million and public spending would make up $117 million.
Built in 1967, Alliant Center is in great need of redevelopment, particularly the coliseum, according to McDonell. He said the number of events hosted at the center has fallen significantly over the last two years.
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McDonell said the Alliant Center campus hosts a number of large events, such as Comi-Con and horse shows. He argues these events are an important economic engine for the county and attracting more investment.
“The occupancy rate of the exhibition hall is only at about 40 percent occupancy, but you want to see more, like, 60 or 70,” McDonell said.
McDonell said the overhaul would attract restaurants and businesses to open on the campus and attract more consumers. He said the county has lost money in previous years and action must be taken to revitalize the space.
The opposition from Parisi focuses on the projects large price tag, but this wouldn’t be all that big of a shock to the county budget, according to Pan.
Pan said the project would fall under the capital budget, which is not as constrained as the operating budget. He said the county can borrow funds to cover the expense without having to raise taxes.
Despite the county’s ability to pay, Pan said there are other issues that could probably use the money.
“For $120 million we could build affordable housing,” Pan said. “We need to look at what really are our priorities.”
But Pan said it could be possible for the county to fund the Alliant Center project and deal with other issues.
Shows targeted at students will not come to Madison if the county does not invest in the facility, McDonell said.
McDonell said anyone going to Zedd this Friday will notice the coliseum’s decay.
“Walk around and look at the concessions and the bathrooms and you’ll really see how dilapidated it really is,” McDonell said.
The county must address the aging campus at some point and said the returns will be greater if the center can be competitive with other venues, such as those in Milwaukee and Chicago, McDonnell said.