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How much public funding would it take to build a new arena?

How much public funding would it take to build a new arena?

A new Mayo Civic Center arena could cost taxpayers upwards of $26.5 million, according to a preliminary estimate from the Rochester Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Figures showing a potential cost breakdown of a proposed $60 million arena were released following a public data request by council member Michael Wojcik. It represents the first time such information has been made available to the public.

According to the plan — which is not yet final — $9.5 million would come from city tax revenue, with an additional $10 million coming out of a future lodging tax expansion. The estimate also suggests using $7 million in Destination Medical Center financing.

In total, public funding represents 44 percent of the total project cost. The remaining funding would come from private developer equity ($18 million), naming rights and sponsorship ($10 million), and an unspecified "other" category ($5.5 million). 

Cost breakdown ($ Millions)

Source: Preliminary estimate by RCVB

It is important to caution that the projections are only in the draft stage. Further, sources of public funding would require approval from various governing bodies, including the city council. 

For the past two years, the RCVB's Brad Jones has been leading an effort to replace the outdated Taylor Arena with a new multi-use sports and entertainment facility. The arena being proposed would hold about 6,000 spectators for sporting events and 7,500 for concerts — similar to venues in La Crosse and Mankato.

"A new arena would be designed with the awareness and appreciation that community members will be its primary users," Jones wrote last month in an op-ed published to the Med City Beat. "It would offer a diverse array of affordable entertainment, arts, and sports events, and is estimated to generate more than $4 million of estimated direct spending in Rochester annually."

The arena proposal has its share of critics, though, and the cost estimate is likely to fan the flames of skepticism.

Wojcik has been of the most vocal opponents of the project. In a lengthy post published this week to his personal blog, he laid out a number of concerns he has with the project. 

"The idea of an arena was presented to the council 2 years ago and it fell flat on its face," said Wojcik. "Despite this a tremendous amount of publicly funded time has been devoted to the pursuit."

Wojcik added that no further action should be taken on the arena  "without understanding how dire the 2018 [city] budget is."

"... we don’t have any money and if we did it should first go to needs like parks, infrastructure, housing, and transit," he wrote.

Jones, along with representatives from the Mayo Civic Center Commission, have recommended the creation of a task force to study the viability of a building a new arena. The city council is expected to take that issue up on Monday, Nov. 20.

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