Think the arena proposal is dead? Not so fast.
It has been a while since we have heard anything about the proposal for a new arena in downtown Rochester — but according to one local official, discussions are continuing to move forward.
In an email Wednesday, Brad Jones, executive director of the Rochester Convention and Visitors Bureau, told me "the arena project is going very well – lots of great progress."
Jones said he is planning to provide a report and recommendations to the Mayo Civic Center Commission sometime in May or June. Discussions with potential investors, tenants, sponsors and other interested parties are ongoing, he added.
"[The arena] could be an excellent opportunity for Rochester to dramatically improve our entertainment offerings to our visitors and residents as well as round out the business plan here at the Civic Center," said Jones. (The civic center is nearing the completion of an $84 million renovation and expansion project.)
Back in 2015, the RCVB commissioned a feasibility study on the possibility of building a new sports and entertainment facility in Rochester. Here's what we reported at the time:
[Plans] call for the demolition of the Mayo Civic Center's Taylor Arena and the construction of a new facility anchored by a United States Hockey League team ... The group focused their presentation on three proposals, ranging in cost from $55-$75 million (early estimates). Each would be suitable for USHL games, as well as other forms of entertainment like concerts, "pro" wrestling performances and monster truck shows. The results of their study suggest a new arena could host 116 annual events, including 32 hockey games.
It remains unclear how much public funding would be needed to build an arena, or whether there would be enough support from the city council to apply any resources to the project.
Council Member Michael Wojcik, a critic of the proposal, wrote on his personal blog Wednesday that he hopes to "stop all activity and funding aimed at building new stadiums in Rochester."
"... In 2017, I will seek to have public oversight of the RCVB, their budget, and expenditures," said Wojcik. "The amount of money they are spending without oversight is well into the millions."
Wojcik recently requested additional information from the RCVB on how much money it has spent on studying the arena proposal. In response, Jones wrote a memo to city administration stating he is the only staff member at the RCVB working on the project.
"I am coordinating all of the partners, consultants and work," Jones said in the memo. "We are doing this to insure that our normal work flow and responsibilities are not affected. On average, I attribute around 15 hours a week (or about 30% of my ongoing time from my own schedule for this work)."
Funding for the RCVB is generated through a 7 percent lodging tax collected from visitors. No local taxes or property taxes are used to fund the organization. It reports to a 24-member board of directors with minimal oversight from the city council.
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Cover graphic: Rendering of proposed arena (2015)