Alliant Energy Center Holds Potential for Neighborhood and Beyond

August 07, 2017
Sharon Corrigan, County Board Chair 608.333.2285
County Board

New visioning report identifies economic, social, community benefits from redevelopment of county-owned AEC campus


The Alliant Energy Center could provide a major boost to the region by drawing more events to Dane County while creating opportunities for adjacent neighborhoods in south Madison, according to a just-completed visioning process.


An initial report released today by the Alliant Energy Center (AEC) Master Planning Oversight Committee shows strong support for moving forward on a major redevelopment of the 164-acre, county-owned campus. The vision statement puts a major focus on improving connections between the center, the community and Lake Monona while making it a destination of choice for both residents and visitors.


“We heard loud and clear the community wants to realize the full potential of this iconic venue in a way that benefits the local neighborhood in addition to boosting the regional economy,” said County Board Chair Sharon Corrigan who also chairs the oversight committee.


Corrigan pointed to the success of the just-completed CrossFit Games, secured by the Madison Area Sports Commission and hosted at the AEC, which brought thousands of visitors to Madison along with significant private investment from organizers to build temporary structures tailored to this event alone. It also aired nationally on CBS Sports, CBS Network and, showcasing the beauty of the area and expanse of the campus.


“This event shows the untapped potential for the campus,” she said. “Imagine the events we will be able to attract with a cogent vision and careful long-term investment.”


The visioning report unveiled today is the second phase of the multi-step planning process building on findings from previous studies and market analyses.


County Board Supervisor Sheila Stubbs, who represents two neighborhoods adjoining the AEC, said a broad vision for the campus means benefits can be shared by the adjacent community.


“When you make improvements like those being discussed, it means more jobs, more services, more opportunity and a better overall quality of life, especially for those who live in that immediate area,” said Stubbs.


Deb Archer, President & CEO of the Greater Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau and Madison Area Sports Commission, a member of the oversight committee, also underscores the importance of the results of the visioning process. She said an improved AEC will allow their organizations to secure more large scale, high impact events.


“This is exactly the kind of big picture planning we need to be doing to position ourselves for the long-term and to remain competitive,” said Archer.


Previous studies suggested a variety of specific enhancements that could be considered for the campus, including upgrading the Veterans Memorial Coliseum building, adding one or more new hotels and creating a “restaurant row” that could serve both visitors and residents.


AEC Executive Director Mark Clarke said the facility has already shown its ability to adapt to meet the needs of a wide range of consumer shows, sporting events, agriculture events and entertainment. But he said a redevelopment will help expand those opportunities.


“Some key enhancements to the campus will mean we can significantly increase capacity and will be even more attractive to different and bigger events,” he said.


Community and stakeholder outreach was a key component of the six-month “Visioning Phase” led by the Madison planning firm, Vandewalle & Associates. It included development of a comprehensive communications platform along with a variety of engagement events including input sessions with potential redevelopment site owners, neighboring businesses, city and county officials and neighborhood residents along with responses to POLCO, an online polling service.


“This is an optimal time for a well-coordinated, long-range plan to create a unified and cohesive district and realize the full potential of this critically important area of the region’s urban core,” said Rob Gottschalk, principal planner at Vandewalle.


The oversight committee will take public comment and consider approving the visioning report at its Sept. 11 meeting. The report will then move to the Dane County Board’s Personnel & Finance Committee and Public Works & Transportation Committee for further review.