Earlier this week a study was released that basically said: “Yes, building a new arena in downtown Racine is a good idea.” The proposed arena would be attached to a 135-room hotel and have an estimated price tag of $40 million dollars. The recommended location is the corner of Lake Avenue and Gas Light Drive, which in my humble opinion is a terrific location for the hypothetical arena. There are plenty of great bars and restaurants in the immediate vicinity, and the waterfront location makes the development a year-round destination.
The Challenge of Financing an Arena
Of course, how to finance the arena is a question that does not currently have an answer.
The general appetite for public financing is understandably low. So any proposal that requires a significant contribution from the City of Racine or Racine County will be unpopular. In terms of gaining popular support, taxes exclusively connected to the arena itself are probably the best option for public contributions. For example, the new Bucks arena will be partially financed by a $2 ticket surcharge. Something similar could theoretically be enacted for the downtown Racine arena.
Granted, this is nothing more than speculation.
U.S. Hockey League Team Possibility
The study also suggested the arena could be the home of a United States Hockey League team, which is the most intriguing twist of this saga. According to the study, an unnamed USHL owner is interested in bringing a team to Racine as soon as an arena is built. In addition, Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold publicly stated his support for bringing a USHL team to Racine. Though Leipold’s potential involvement with a USHL team is unknown, having the public support of an NHL owner is no small feat.
The possibility of having a USHL team makes a downtown arena significantly more viable. Between the NBA D-League and the USHL, the arena would have two anchor tenants. This means more people coming downtown and more people pumping money into the downtown economy. The result net economic impact to Racine is actually positive. After all, money spent downtown is money not spent in west Racine. It’s easier to make an economic case for an arena that houses two teams.
Junior Hockey Team Potential
There is also the matter of junior hockey being incredibly entertaining. I’ll admit to being a biased hockey fan, but even if you only have passing interest in the sport you’ll have a great time at a USHL game. (Keep in mind the games are played by 16-20 year old men, so fights are not exactly uncommon.) And if you are a hockey fan you’ll love being able to catch a game at the fraction of the cost of a Chicago Blackhawks ticket.
I still have no idea about the likelihood of any of this happening. All I know for certain is that it’s much more likely that Racine will get a downtown arena, basketball team, and hockey team than is was a month ago. That is a highly exciting development.