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County board approves lease with CDA for expo center

By Heather Graves

BROWN COUNTY – After much discussion, the Brown County Board of Supervisors voted to authorize and approve a new lease with the Ashwaubenon Community Development Authority (CDA) for the new expo center, planned at the site of the Brown County Veterans Memorial Arena.

This lease will replace the one the county currently has with the CDA for the Resch Center project – this new lease will include both properties.

“I’ve been on this board for almost 17 years and we’ve been talking about the arena for many of those,” Vice-Chair Thomas Lund said at the April 17 meeting. “We’ve spent a lot of money on that old structure. Let’s build this 21st-century expo hall that will really make the people of Brown County proud.”

Not everyone was 100 percent onboard.

“We are pinched on time,” said Supervisor Patrick Evans. “(At the) end of May we are going to be issuing (more than) $90 million and we are getting this information at an April meeting. (There are) demolitions scheduled, construction scheduled, so guess what, and we say ‘no’ to this we destroy a process. That’s bad business to me.”

The Ashwaubenon CDA issued revenue bonds with the county taking on the debt – Brown County will lease the property to the village until the debt is paid in full in 35 years.

The expo center is estimated to cost $93 million.

The bond amount will be paid for by room tax revenue pledged by seven municipalities in addition to $15 million in sales tax revenue, $4.7 million in excess stadium tax revenue and $8 million in naming rights revenue.

“(This expo center) will be next to one of the most iconic stadiums in all of sport,” Lund said. “We should have no issue with securing naming rights funds.”

County staff is currently working on securing naming rights.

Just last month, the CDA conducted a room tax study to evaluate future growth to confirm fund the debt service schedule.

“Some of this (plan) just doesn’t make sense,” Evans said “Is it a good deal for Brown County – I’d say on paper is isn’t. Overall, it is. So, I’ll support it, but sometimes you look at it and think wow, we’ve really handcuffed ourselves.”

Demolition work is slated to begin sometime this spring with construction starting in June.

If all goes as planned, the new expo center is set to open in January 2021.

“We did the same type of structure and support Green Bay with the KI Center, let’s support Ashwaubenon with the expo center and let’s make sure this gets done,” Lund said.

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