Consultants recommend renovating the Alliant Energy Center’s Memorial Coliseum and investing in private development in an approximately $400 million strategic plan, according to a preliminary report presented to a county committee Friday.
The Chicago-based Hunden Strategic Partners’ draft feasibility study suggests adding two new hotels, expanding the existing Exhibition Hall, building connecting skyways across the 164-acre campus and creating more dining opportunities on a dubbed “Restaurant Road.”
A previous analysis conducted by Hammes Co. and supported by a study committee recommended a $500 million expansion plan that included demolishing and replacing the Coliseum.
“This is saveable,” Rob Hunden, one of the consultants, said of the Coliseum.
Hunden is recommending an approximately $105 million renovation and expansion of the Coliseum, which would preserve its well-known red band and domed roof. An updated AEC could host more events including regional indoor sports, dance and cheer tournaments, large conventions, more concerts and family shows and expand agricultural-oriented events and festivals.
The Hammes plan would have cost $180 million to tear down and replace the aging venue.
Hunden said a renovated facility may not have as many seats as the market demands, but the incremental benefit the county would receive is not worth spending the cost to tear down and rebuild.
“To me the biggest deficit you have in terms of everything is the Coliseum,” Hunden said. “It would be such a calling card to get people excited again and have renewed faith in the campus and the county and everyone involved in it.”
Areas identified within the Coliseum for updates include expanded concourses, improved bowl, rigging, dressing and locker rooms, concessions, merchandise, new entrances and enhanced premium seating.
Dane County Executive Joe Parisi’s chief of staff Josh Wescott said the preliminary results are a recognition of the benefits the campus already provides to Dane County and offer recommendations to capitalize on those successes. Parisi previously vetoed the Board of Supervisors' efforts to move ahead with the now near-complete Hunden study, which the Board overrode.
“This resets the whole conversation,” Wescott said. “It really reflects an accurate read on what the people who have used the facility have been telling us for years.”
A revamped facility could bring more concerts to the AEC, which are a moneymaker for the campus as a whole, Wescott said. In 2016, the AEC hosted seven shows and made $552,000.
Hunden also recommends a 50,000 square foot expansion of the Exhibition Hall, a 20,000 square foot expansion of meeting room space, 30,000 square feet of ballroom space, multiple hotel options and restaurant options grouped for a “village feel” that “evoke Madison.” Minor improvements and a show ring addition were recommended for the pavilions.
Rough estimates show a renovated campus could create about 700 new jobs. Dane County Board Chair Sharon Corrigan said the increased economic opportunities have the potential to benefit the South Park Street area, which has a high unemployment rate.
“(The AEC) is an important economic engine now, but it’s going to be even more important later,” Corrigan said. “It’s going to help all of Dane County, but I’m particularly excited for the potential of helping the south Madison area.”
The AEC Master Planning Oversight Committee is expected to receive the final report at the end of the month, which will also include parking expansion recommendations and potential governance models for the campus.
Corrigan said a community engagement process will follow the final report. The Board of Supervisors would hopefully receive a master plan recommendation in the summer and a consultant would be hired for the project by the fall.