A committee voted Wednesday to recommend Dane County move ahead with a plan to gut and redevelop the Alliant Energy Center campus.
The County Board’s Alliant Energy Center Strategic Design Study Committee voted unanimously in favor of a motion to recommend the third, and most dramatic, renovation option presented in an October strategic feasibility study solicited by the county and completed by Hammes Company, a real estate development and investment firm based in Madison.
“I think it’s really important that we’ve been able to move forward with some recommendations on what to do with this site,” said Scott McDonell, chair of the committee. “Hopefully we’re starting on a path now where we’ll turn this site around, into something that’s making money, that’s landing new shows and events, instead of losing money.”
The recommended option is estimated to cost $90 to $120 million in public investment, paired with $300 to $400 million of private investment.
The motion recommended a variety of elements for the as-yet-undrafted master plan for redevelopment, including enabling a framework for the county to bow out of the renovation process entirely.
“That was clearly the feedback we had from the County Board meeting the other night,” said McDonell. “We’ve allowed the facility and some of the buildings to really become so far behind their competition, it really requires a serious investment that we have to make sure will pay back.”
The motion also recommends the creation of a joint City of Madison and Dane County staff team, which would make recommendations for a new joint management and investment strategy for the 164-acre campus.
The joint staff team would be aided by the hiring of a professional consultant “familiar with real estate developments and economic development in Dane County,” the motion read.
“This is the way to go — to examine how to get this to be a large economic engine for the community,” said Dane County Board Chair Sharon Corrigan. “We need to have more days and more events to be able to pay the bills.”
The committee also recommended the City of Madison and Dane County pursue enabling state legislation to create a tourism or expedition district for the Alliant Energy Center campus.
“Alliant Energy Center is believed to be the only public venue of its type without a segregated revenue stream such a rental car fee or food and beverage tax,” the motion read.
Discussions regarding Alliant Energy Center campus renovations were spurred by declining revenues in recent years.
According to a June 2015 market analysis prepared for the Alliant Energy Center by Minnesota-based Markin Consulting, a marked decrease in the number of concerts at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, which is located on the Alliant Energy Center campus, can be pegged to a lack of amenities, like a rigging grid for the ceiling and crew loading and unloading space.
The Coliseum had five concerts in 2014, down from seven in 2013 and eight in 2012, with revenues sliding 32 percent from 2012 to 2014, according to the study.
The Oct. 2015 study from Hammes Company also cited operating deficits, which have ranged from $300,000 to $500,000 in previous years, increasing to $758,000 in 2014.
Opponents of the renovation, including Dane County Executive Joe Parisi, say the expansive renovation proposed by Hammes and embraced by the committee vote on Wednesday are unnecessary and unaffordable.
“Dane County taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill for what would be the most expensive building project in county history,” Parisi wrote in a January 2016 Cap Times editorial.
The next step is to pass along the motion to the County Board. It will have to work through a handful of committees before final action by the board.