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New Madison arena pitched by developer

Veterans Memorial Coliseum at Alliant Energy Center

The Veterans Memorial Coliseum at Madison’s Alliant Energy Center should be replaced by a more modern facility that could better serve touring musical acts and ice shows, according to a study prepared by a Wisconsin-based developer.

Hammes Co., which has worked on sports-destination projects built around Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers and the new Minnesota Vikings stadium, says the Alliant Energy Center grounds should be upgraded with new retail and entertainment options, as well as a new arena. The 48-year-old arena currently serves many masters: besides hosting touring shows, it’s also a centerpiece for World Dairy Expo and Midwest Horse Show activities. Those two shows are by far the biggest events held annually at Alliant Energy Center; the World Dairy Expo draws over 70,000 attendees and over 2,000 cattle for the yearly celebration of all things dairy, and the arena is crammed with exhibitors in the concourse and cattle judging in the arena bowl. The arena is also home to the Madison Capitols (USHL).

And while much of what happens with Alliant Energy Center is related to the World Dairy expo, the argument from Hammes is that so many more activities could be hosted at a more modern facility: Veterans Memorial Coliseum seats 10,231 for concerts and 8,800 or so for sports events, and that’s too large a capacity for the midrange touring acts that skip Madison currently in favor of smaller cities like Green Bay and La Crosse, which have much more modern facilities. The arena is a financial drag on Alliant Energy Center as a whole: The arena lost $758,000 in 2014.

So part of the solution is to tear down the arena and build a new 6,000-to-8,000 seat facility for $80 million. A modern facility could still serve the needs of the big dogs while being a much more financially attractive arena for promoters. Bigger shows would still have the option to land at the Kohl Center on the University of Wisconsin campus.

Other options proposed by Hammes include an arena renovation estimated to cost $50 million and a new parking ramp. And with the tem From

The recommended plan’s overall cost estimates ranged from $455 million to $507 million. Public funding would cover about $117 million of it, including about $80 million for a new multipurpose arena with 6,000 to 8,000 seats. The rest of the public funding would pay for a 1,000-stall, $25 million parking ramp and $10 million in improvements to Exhibition Hall.

Private development would cover the cost of the rest of the development that will include hotels and other commercial space as well as retail, dining and entertainment areas. It would also include community gathering spaces, a residential area and transportation connections to Downtown Madison.

The best event sites are virtually all-inclusive, Robinson said. “They have their own little world and you don’t have to leave the campus. That’s the model right now, and it’s a trend we see continuing,” he added.

The advantage to the Hammes study: it attempts to deal with the Alliant Energy Center as a whole. Right now the grounds are a disjointed set of buildings (one large exhibit hall, two smaller exhibit halls and the arena) with poor traffic flow. Connecting all the buildings and perhaps a parking ramp would benefit all current and future exhibitors and promoters. But there are also some extreme challenges: Alliant Energy Center must rely on city and state funding (it doesn’t receive any tourism taxes, unlike most public facilities), and it might be a difficult sell for any proposal with the Hammes name because of some local politics: the firm is the lead developer on a very controversial downtown development, Judge Doyle Square.

The Alliant Energy Center Strategic Design Study Committee will review the study tomorrow.

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