An expanded plan to turn the barns at the Dane County-owned Alliant Energy Center into year-round, multi-purpose facilities has earned the approval of Gov. Scott Walker, who included $9 million in his budget proposal to help pay for the project.
If Walker's recommendation is approved, it would pay for half of the estimated $18 million price tag for the project that will include two multi-use facilities totaling nearly 300,000 square feet to be built where the existing barns are located, according to Dane County Executive Joe Parisi.
The upgrades to the project push its price tag about $4 million higher than what the county estimated last September. Parisi said he still expects the county and private investors to pay for about half the project. The county set aside $1.5 million in its current budget for demolition and design on the barn project, and officials expected to budget additional money for it in 2014.
The new plan boosts the total square footage of both facilities by about 100,000 square feet, replaces all 11 barns and aims to complete most of the project between the conclusion of the World Dairy Expo this October and the start of the Midwest Horse Fair in April 2014.
The most important functions of the facilities would be housing all the livestock at the World Dairy Expo and horses at the Midwest Horse Fair — the two largest events held at the Alliant Energy Center each year. Plans call for an estimated 2,600 livestock and up to 1,300 horses to be housed in stalls in the two facilities, which would measure 200,000 square feet and 90,000 square feet. For comparison, the Alliant Energy Center's Exhibition Hall offers about 100,000 square feet of unobstructed space.
Much like Exhibition Hall, the new facilities' inside walls, including the stalls, would be removable and interchangeable so they would be able to hold events like auto shows and swap meets. The Midwest Horse Fair would be able to use portions of the facilities to include indoor riding arenas. The smaller facility would be heated so events can be held there year-round.
"We realized there would be more value from doing it this way, and the state saw the value also," Parisi said.
The plans were upgraded at the urging of new Alliant Energy Center director Mark Clarke after he came on board last December. The former general manager of the World Dairy Expo said shows from around the country already are looking to book events for the new facilities as far out as 2019.
"There are other facilities like this in the country. But the size of this one is going to put Madison on a map for a series of events that it can host. We feel we're doing this one right," Clarke said.
A key aim of the plans is to ensure the continued presence of the Expo at the Alliant Energy Center. The five-day event, which showcases genetics and new technologies in the dairy industry, draws more than 65,000 attendees from around the world each year. The 23rd-largest and 12th-fastest-growing trade show in North America is estimated to have a $50 million economic impact statewide.
In addition to the stalls, plans call for more than ample storage for feed, tack and other equipment, as well as a mezzanine. There also would be covered walkways.
"It's being built for animal comfort, but it's also being built for human comfort and exhibitor comfort," Clarke said.