MetroCentre Progress Update

By: Alice Barr
By: Alice Barr

Reconstruction is well underway on Rockford's MetroCentre. But as we look ahead to the new IceHogs November 2nd home debut there is still plenty to be done.
"That which is absolutely necessary will be completed in which to open on November 2nd," says Chairman of the MetroCentre Board Rita Pirrello Epperson.
That means the main arena will be ready, as well as part of the entryway. Pirello Epperson says other work like the restaurant and some bathrooms will take longer. Compounding matters, reconstruction is running up to $900,000 over budget. That's a relatively small percentage of the total $17 million budget, but it's enough to have some leaders concerned.
The project is being funded through a $20 million bond sale, to be paid back over 20 years. The county is paying nine million and the rest is divided between Rockford and the MetroCentre.
"There really isn't any money to float as far is if there's losses if there's things over budget or things like that. There didn't seem to be a good plan in the beginning," says Winnebago County Board member Mary Ann Aiello.
It's not hard to see why costs add up so quickly when you're reconstructing a building of this size. For instance, Pirello Epperson says it costs $1,000 to replace just one of the MetroCentre's hundreds of windows.
"You're always under pressure when you're using somebody else's dollars and we're conscious of that so we don't want to overrun any of the budget," says Pirello Epperson.
She adds the MetroCentre board recently cut about $350,000 out of their costs, by consolidating work and she expects they'll be able to do that with the current overdraw. But Aiello worries that might cut out necessary repairs to things like plumbing that are 20 years overdue.
Pirello Epperson says that won't happen: "Nothing will be cut out that is detrimental to us to hold the best events that we can hold for the city of Rockford."
MetroCentre leaders are counting on the renovations and the more competitive IceHogs to bring in larger crowds, bigger acts and more revenue. Pirello Epperson says though it's a gamble, that's business.
At Tuesday night's city council meeting, a committe considered buying a parking lot from the MetroCentre. Pirello Epperson says money from that sale would help pay off a $1.2 million debt from installing the MetroCentre's ice floor back in 1998.


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