Dane County is seeking developers who can take years of data, surveys, feedback, and research on the 164-acre Alliant Energy Center campus and create a path toward a reimagined destination district.
Typically, the campus on Madison’s south side sees more than 1 million visitors each year who generate more than $80 million in local spending. The last year saw cancellations because of the pandemic, and the venue adapted to new uses including testing, vaccinations, farmers’ market drive-thru and food bank work.
Executive director Brent Kyzer-McHenry said the time is right to move forward with plans for the future of the campus, anticipating the need for people to gather again.
“We need to get this going now, so we’re ready to emerge right out of this pandemic,” Kyzer-McHenry said. “We want to make sure we’re growing for the events that need us to grow.”
Proposals are due May 28 with selection decision expected in September, according to the schedule outlined in the request for proposals.
A master plan completed in December 2018 for the campus calls for approximately $300 million in public and private investment to create a walkable, environmentally friendly destination with housing, commercial buildings and restaurants to accompany the event spaces.
Expanding existing facilities would maximize the ability to support the growth of events like the Quilt Expo, Brat Fest and World Dairy Expo and attract new regional and national events, according to the county. Specifically, expanding Exhibition Hall would offer more opportunities for the Alliant Energy Center to host large trade shows.
“We know with the right vision, the future of Dane County’s Alliant Energy Center is bright,” Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said in a statement March 22. “As we emerge from the challenges of the past year, this project offers opportunity for economic invigoration while bringing new events to Dane County.”
Broadly, the district will serve as a community gathering space that can accommodate a variety of programming and should “reinforce the regional character of Dane County.” According to the request for proposals, plans must include:
- A flagship, 5-star, headquarter hotel that is walkable to all campus locations.
- A gateway plaza linking all aspects of the campus and parking areas.
- Green pedestrian linkages and enhanced streetscaping and more than 2,700 covered parking spaces.
- Affordable workforce housing, retail, restaurant, office and entertainment.
- Improved vehicle and pedestrian access from John Nolen Drive and Rusk Road.
- Multimodal transportation connections to downtown.
- A flagship entertainment and activity venue.
- Elements of the Campus Master Plan and Destination district vision.
The county is envisioning the campus’ future as the Alliant Energy Center transformed to meet the needs of the pandemic. Its drive-thru testing and vaccination have become a model for other states, according to Kyzer-McHenry, with representatives from South Dakota visiting Dane County this week to tour the facility.
He said the Alliant Energy Center has “broken a mold of what a public event center was and is and should have been.”
Josh Wescott, chief of staff to Parisi, said issuing the request for proposals is an “important milestone” in guiding the future of the Alliant Energy Center. He said there will be a renewed focus on redevelopment and infrastructure projects as the country recovers from COVID-19 to jumpstart the economy, making it the right time to focus on the future of the campus.
“We now know what the campus is capable of in times of crisis,” Wescott said. “Now we need to find out its best potential at helping recharge our region's economy post Covid-19.”
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