A push to override a mayoral veto on the proposed Racine arena/event center fell short on Tuesday, with the city council ultimately upholding the veto.
Last month, shortly after taking office, Racine mayor Cory Mason vetoed previously-approved funding for the downtown arena project, criticizing the financial aspects of the plan. Racine officials have been debating the plan, which calls for the construction of a new arena as part of an event center that includes a new hotel. It has been eyed as a possible home for hockey, and was at one point discussed as a potential venue for a Milwaukee Bucks-owned team in the NBA Gatorade League (that team was ultimately awarded to Oshkosh, and is now known as the Wisconsin Herd).
The Racine City Council had an opportunity to override Mason’s veto at its meeting on Tuesday, needing votes from 10 out of 15 aldermen to do so. While progress was reported in some areas of the proposal–including negotiations with a prospective hockey tenant–eight aldermen voted against the veto override. Officials who voted against the override cited various factors in their decisions, ranging from how they believed the ongoing discussions were dividing the city to concerns over Real Racine’s refusal to allocate room tax dollars toward the project’s debt. More from The Journal Times:
“I’m voting to give us a chance to come together to heal,” said 14th District Alderman Jason Meekma, who voted against overriding the veto. Meekma said he thinks the project could be good for Racine but that the city has become too divided over the matter.
Prior to Tuesday’s vote, council members received an update from city staff about progress on a list of 10 benchmarks that were developed to keep Racine on track in developing the arena. Staff said Monday that they had so far met six of the 10 benchmarks, such as developing an agreement with a private developer to construct a hotel. A tenant lease with a minor-league hockey team is also almost finished, staff said.
One benchmark could not be achieved, staff said Monday. The board of Real Racine, the county’s tourism agency, which receives room taxes from hotel stays to promote local tourism, voted against spending those funds on paying down event center project debt.
Alderman John Tate II, who represents the 3rd District, cited that issue in voting against overriding the veto.
In the summer, a cost estimate put the project at $55 million. Racine had been mentioned as a possible USHL market, as Minnesota Wild (NHL) owner Craig Leipold, a Racine native, had previously said he would assist in bringing a team to the city.
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