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Village approves MOU with county for expo center

The Brown County Veterans Memorial Arena on the corner of Oneida Street and Armed Forces Drive will be the site of a new expo center. The village of Ashwaubenon and Brown County recently both approved a memo of understanding regarding financing of the project. Ben Rodgers Photo

By Kevin Boneske
Staff Writer

ASHWAUBENON – An agreement has been finalized between Ashwaubenon and Brown County outlining each unit of government’s responsibilities for the design and construction of a new expo center.

The Ashwaubenon village board voted Tuesday, June 26, to approve the memorandum of understanding (MOU) the Brown County Board approved June 20.

Village Manager Allison Swanson said the MOU between the village and county to build the expo center at the current site of the Brown County Veterans Memorial Arena is similar to what was put together for the construction of the Resch Center.

For that project, the village’s Community Development Authority issued revenue bonds with the county taking on that debt while leasing the space prior to the county owning the facility once the debt is paid in full.

“That’s what we’re setting up in this case (with the expo center),” Swanson said. “Village staff and county staff, along with staff members at PMI (Entertainment Group) will go through an RFP (request for proposal) process, design and ultimately go through construction of the new expo center.”

Swanson also noted the agreement includes working together with the county to raise a combined total of $8 million in naming rights and committing the county to using $4.6 million from the stadium sales tax rebate and another $15 million raised from the new half-percent county sales tax.

“The bulk of the funds (for the expo center project) do come from room tax dollars,” she said.

Village President Mary Kardoskee, who made reference to the legal challenge being made to the new county sales tax, said the expo center project would be going forward regardless, because it isn’t dependent upon whether the new tax remains in place to raise $15 million from it.

“(The expo center project is) paid for with room tax,” Kardoskee said.

Swanson said she expects a lease that would outline the bonding for the project will be brought before the village board in about a year.

“The original responsibilities at this point really are for when we kick off a contract for architectural service, construction manager, but that would again lie on the county’s side of it and our intention really is to use the cash on hand for those things in terms of the earlier portion of the project, and see how far those dollars stretch out before we actually do bonding,” she said. “But the county would back all of the debt.”

When asked by Trustee Mark Williams about how issuing bonds for the project would affect the village’s debt structure, Swanson said it would not affect Ashwaubenon’s bond rating.

“It’s specially called a lease revenue bond…, Swanson said. “It allows you to get reduced interest costs by what would otherwise be a taxable debt structure.”

Swanson noted none of the village’s general tax dollars will be going into the CDA or the funding of the project.
She said agreements to use room tax dollars to fund the expo center have already been approved with municipalities in the county, while the village of Ashwaubenon won’t be a party to a separate lease operator management agreement that will be entered into between the county and PMI.

Swanson said terms of an operation management agreement at this point are undecided because it’s unknown what the space will look like and when the expo center would be going into operation.

“All those conversations still have to take place,” she said. “We still have to figure out the timing of it…. They use the arena, they use Shopko Hall a lot, and so it’s a whole change in their current operations and trying to figure out scheduling and when demolition can happen, all that kind of stuff.”

Swanson said the village’s role in the expo center project will be “more of a limited partner.”

“We’re really a facilitator more than anything else,” she said. “It is definitely good for us to do this project. We have some of our own ideas. We would like to see some enhancements to that corner. It’s a very valuable, visible corner, and I think there’s some bigger draws that can be brought and bigger benefits to the village in doing so.”

Swanson said the village would not own and/or operate the expo center upon completion.

According to the project description contained in the MOU, the project includes the design and construction of the expo center, the demolition of the Brown County Veterans Memorial Arena and the former Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame, the full or partial demolition/integration of Shopko Hall and the preservation of the existing Veterans Memorial, as well as any development that may occur on the site.

The MOU further notes the groundbreaking date for the project will be agreed on by both the village and the county with the construction of at least 100,000 square feet of exposition space with an estimated construction cost of up to $93 million.

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