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County: New arena needed in Madison

Veterans Memorial Coliseum at Alliant Energy Center

Madison’s Veterans Memorial Coliseum should be scrapped as part of a long-term overhaul of the Alliant Energy Center grounds, as the 1967 arena is increasingly a drain on county resources, according a recommendation from a county study committee.

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).

That assessment generated agreement from the members of the ad-hoc Alliant Energy Center Strategic Design Study Committee, which rejected plans that would renovate the aging arena. The concern from other elected officials: any changes could negatively impact the two largest events of the year, but that rationale was rejected by the committee. From

“Just fixing up the Coliseum is not acceptable. It’s not competitive,” said Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell, who chaired the committee…..

McDonell and County Board chairwoman Sharon Corrigan said the officials must find a way to meet the needs of those shows but attract new business to pay for the operating expenses. Adding hotels, retail and dining amenities to the complex could help do that.

“We can’t run a facility on five days a year,” McDonell said referring to the Dairy Expo. “They’re five important days, so we’ll do what we need to do to make sure they’re happy, but I also know there are customers that are frustrated that they have to drive to get to anything off that campus.”

According to cost estimates from Hammes, the arena is a financial drag on Alliant Energy Center as a whole, losing $758,000 in 2014. The majority of events are the arena are musical, but larger draws are bypassing the arena because of its size and limited technical capabilities, either heading to Green Bay or La Crosse or scheduling at the University of Wisconsin’s Kohl Center.

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