Janesville Woodman's ice arena and convention center

JANESVILLE — The Janesville City Council on Monday is expected to approve a construction contract for the long-proposed ice arena and convention center to be built on the site of the former Sears store at the Uptown Janesville Mall.

The project will likely move forward despite concerns from some in the community and at least one council member.

The council meeting is set for 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 22, 2024 at city hall located at 18 North Jackson Street in downtown Janesville. A link to watch the meeting will be posted HERE.

There will be a public comment period, according to the agenda HERE. Read the full information packet HERE.

The winning bid from JP Cullen of roughly $39 million is only for the construction costs of the project and does not include fixtures, furniture and equipment, soft costs, and contingency.

JP Cullen’s bid came in under budget, dropping the expected total cast to $46.7 million from an earlier estimate of $50.3 million.

According to an estimate provided by the city in 2022, the owner of a $150,000 home in Janesville would pay about $40 extra per year in property taxes for the $17.3 million commited by the city in taxpayer funding.

A special council meeting is scheduled for February 1, 2024, to discuss specific options for funding the city’s contribution.

The facility, which will be known as the Woodman’s Sports and Convention Center, will include a two-sheet ice arena, whose main tenant will be the Janesville Jets, a convention center and a multi-use area.

As demolition of the former Sears building is set to get under way however, questions remain about the facility.

Council member Heather Miller recently posed a series of concerns, including that the facility is expected to lose money, and no decision has been made on who will run it.

In a recent informational forum hosted by the Rock County Civics Academy, attorney Duffy Dillon, who has been involved in numerous local sports and nonprofits, also questioned why the city has yet to decide if the facility would be run by the city or by a private contractor.

The most recent information came in an information packet from city staff provided to council members for Monday’s meeting.

According to city staff, The Woodman’s Center would operate under a public model and be owned by the City of Janesville.

Operations of the facility will be the responsibility of the Recreation Division, with the Neighborhood & Community Services Department.

It is planned to be staffed with a full-time facility manager, assistant manager, maintenance technician, and maintenance worker in addition to numerous part-time staff.

The Janesville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau has committed sales and marketing staff support for 20 hours per week dedicated to sports sales research.

With additional staffing, the city is prepared to oversee the facility’s operations; however, the city also intends to explore engaging a private management company to provide day-to-day operational services and/or support and options for assistance with facility start-up.

If the contract is approved Monday, demolition will begin sometime in February or March 2024, with construction substantially complete in May 2025 and occupancy in July 2025.