Arena proposal inches forward
Proponents of a new downtown arena want to begin soliciting proposals for a modern venue that would replace the three-decade-old Taylor Arena and put Rochester in a position to begin competing with nearby cities for sports and entertainment dollars.
On Tuesday afternoon, the consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) presented the Mayo Civic Center Commission with a financial analysis of the project. The report, funded by Mayo Clinic, estimated a new arena would cost around $58 million. That is consistent with a study conducted in 2015 by Hammes Company.
Brad Jones, executive director of the Rochester Convention and Visitors Bureau, has spent the past two years continuing to push the project forward. Already, he said, there have been talks with potential partners and tenants — including semi-pro hockey and basketball teams — that could fill the building.
“Whether it’s turf, ice or court, there are interested parties,” said Jones. He later added, “A lot of them are waiting for us to take this to the next level.”
Speaking to the commission, Jones said the next step would be to open an RFP process and see how the private market responds. He recommended the city set up a task force to begin defining the guidelines for proposals.
“At some point, we need to publish the details to the private sector and engage them,” he said. (Regardless of who operates the proposed arena, state bonding rules would require the city to maintain ownership of the building.)
It remains unclear how much taxpayer funding would be required for the arena, which PcW estimated could bring roughly 157 events per year to Rochester. However, Jones said he anticipates at least 50 percent of the costs would be funded through private sources.
Following the meeting, council member Nick Campion questioned whether an arena should be a priority for the city.
“Affordable housing is a crisis. An arena is not,” Campion wrote on Facebook. “There are long histories of expensive arenas being financially devastating to cities and our community has pressing needs now. Now is not the time for the City to be investing in an arena. It is beyond time we take action to tackle our our top priority: affordable housing.”
The council is expected to discuss the project in the coming weeks.
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Cover: Rendering of a proposed waterfront arena from the 2015 report / Desigsns were not included as part of the most recent study