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CDA backs $4.6 million architectural contract for expo center

By Kevin Boneske
Staff Writer

ASHWAUBENON – Two architectural firms are joining forces to handle the architecture and engineering services for constructing an expo center at the current site of the Brown County Veterans Memorial Arena.

Ashwaubenon’s Community Development authority agreed Thursday, Oct. 18, to award a $4.6 million contract to the team of Kahler Slater and Populous as recommended by the interview panel comprised of representatives of the village, Brown County and PMI Entertainment Group.

Village Manager Allison Swanson noted Kahler Slater, an architectural firm in Milwaukee, has experience with a variety sports and recreation projects, such as the Kress Events Center at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and at the Kohl Center and LaBahn Arena at UW-Madison, while Populous, a Kansas City-based architectural firm, has extensive expo knowledge.

“We overall liked what they brought to the table, in terms of not just design in terms of the facility, but Populous also has great experience in terms of the NFL draft,” Swanson said. “They review the bids for Super Bowls and the NFL drafts.”

Swanson said the possibility of the expo center being able to host a future NFL draft could be more than a “pipe dream” by having the Kahler Slater/Populous team handle the architecture and engineering services.

“It was also very evident in their interview that they had spent a ton of time just investigating the community, the needs for the facility,” she said. “They had toured the facility prior to submitting their proposal.”

Of the fee proposals submitted ranging from around $3.3 million to $9 million for the architecture and engineering services, Swanson said Kahler Slater’s proposal was in the middle at just over $5 million.

“They had some additional services in there that were not in the other proposals we received,” she said. “So to kind of bring it down to an apple and an apple, we took out the ones that were not included in other proposals, and we still had a gap of $264,000.”

Swanson noted Kahler Slater then agreed to the flat fee of $4.6 million for the architecture and engineering core services, rather than charging a fee as a percentage of the project costs.

“I have to say I like that a lot better, because now you don’t have an incentive to make a more expensive building,” said committee member Keith Lucius.

Jeff Piette from Kahler Slater, who was present for the meeting, will have the role of lead project manager with members of both architectural firms participating in the design and development of the expo center.

Piette said the project schedule will be “an aggressive one” in the first 90 days.

“As you probably know with events at the Resch Center, time is money, so you actually try to condense your window of down time as much as possible,” he said. “For this particular project, one of the advantages is, for the most part, Resch Center is untouched, you could say, so that will be able to operate and function pretty free and clear of everything that’s built alongside of it.”

Swanson said around $4.6 million the county has in excess sales tax revenue from the stadium tax refund is now available to pay bills for the expo center project.

In June, the village and county finalized an agreement outlining each unit of government’s responsibilities for the design and construction of a new expo center.

That memorandum of understanding is similar to what was put together for the construction of the Resch Center, for which the 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.

“We issue the bonds, but the county is responsible for them,” said Village President Mary Kardoskee.

The MOU for the expo center 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 for an estimated construction cost of up to $93 million.

Along with the stadium tax refund money, the agreement includes having the village work with the county to raise a total of $8 million in naming rights with another $15 million coming from the new half-percent county sales tax and the bulk of the funds for the expo center project coming from room tax dollars.

According to the MOU, the project includes the design and construction of the expo center, the demolition of the Brown County Arena and the former Packer 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 Community Development Authority previously agreed Oct. 8 to award a project manager/construction manager professional services contract for the expo center to Miron Construction with the authority to enter into an alternative construction manager at-risk contract, based on overall time and cost savings.

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