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Friends of the Woodman's Center: 2023 Year in Review

Header image with photos from community engagement events

What a fantastic year it’s been for the Woodman’s Sports and Convention Center project!


Together, we've hit some incredible highs, tackled challenges head-on, and made steady strides toward making the Woodman's Center dream a reality. From the get-go, this journey has been a team effort. A big shout-out to our amazing volunteers, project leaders at the City of Janesville, fundraising heroes, and the community whose enthusiasm hasn't waned. You've been the rock we've built this project, and your energy and support have kept us going strong.


And a huge thanks to our legacy donors, Woodman's Markets, Mercyhealth, Kennedy Family Foundation, Janesville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, Uptown Janesville/RockStep Capital, and the incredible generosity of an anonymous $1M donor.


We're incredibly grateful for every bit of support you've given us. It's time to celebrate the year's successes and share the standout moments that have brought us one step closer to our shared dream. Here's to more progress, milestones, and reasons to cheer in the coming year!


January - A Dynamic Beginning


  • Key Figures Support: Kicked off the year with endorsements from community leaders like Quint Studer, Kathy Hansen, and others.

  • Digital Transformation: Launched, a weekly blog and email newsletter to keep you informed, and new social media channels. We’ve also worked with our City partners to include a feedback form on the City website.


February - The Fundraising Momentum


  • Historic Campaign Kickoff: Initiated a significant fundraising campaign, Together We Can, with a goal of $1 million.

  • Governor's Endorsement: Governor Evers stopped in Janesville to announce his support to push for a $15 million state-funded contribution for the Woodman's Center.


March - Surpassing Goals


  • Fundraising Success: Exceeded fundraising target, amassing over $6.9 million.

  • Project Updates: Continued detailed design planning with community feedback and provided regular updates and conversations with the Janesville City Council.

Photos from Community Day event

April - Community Engagement and Milestones


  • Community Day Event: Hosted an engaging community event at Uptown Janesville alongside over two dozen community groups behind the Woodman’s Center project, with over 1,500 residents and local media in attendance. The day's conversations added to the already over 5,000 community interactions made by the Friends since 2022.

  • Donor Wall Design: Revealed as fundraising hit over $7.3 million. For a complete list of our donors, please visit There are still plenty of opportunities to donate in our goal to reach $9 million in pledges; please get in touch with us at for additional donor opportunities, including naming rights.


May - Clarity and Outreach


  • 'You Ask, Friends Answer' Campaign: Launched to answer community questions about the project, generating an in-depth FAQ authored by the Friends.

  • Fundraising and Leadership Recognition: Celebrated a new milestone in fundraising and received a commendation from project leaders for our community outreach efforts and timely public updates. Thank you to Jennifer Petruzzello, Neighborhood and Community Services Director with the City of Janesville, WI, for sharing this letter about our Community Day event in April!


June - Leadership and Design Advancements


  • Leadership Transition: Said farewell filled with gratitude to Chief Moore for his City leadership over the project and welcomed City Manager Kevin Lahner. Kevin has a keen eye on Janesville's bright future and a solid grasp of our project's goals, making him an invaluable ally on this exciting journey.

  • Design Progress: Achieved 90% completion, with bids for construction up next. Curious to see the magic that happened? Head on over to and take a look.

  • Fundraising and Awareness Update: Pledges surpassed $8 million. Project information advertised inside Uptown Janesville.

Renderings of the Woodman's Center project

July - Community Connection and Outreach


  • Engagement Activities: Hosted activities at the Rock County 4H Fair and engaged in round-table discussions with the Janesville Gazette, including Lisa Buchanan (Janesville Area Special Olympics), Jim Hessenauer (Milton High School Boy's Hockey Team), Nicodemas Nimmo (volunteer project photographer of Full Spectrum Photography) Julie Cubbage (Uptown Janesville), Nathan Burkart (Janesville Performing Arts Center), Jessica Locher (ECHO, Inc.), Jayme Roth (community volunteer), Bob Schaffner (community volunteer), Christine Rebout (Janesville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau), and Sabrina Siker Bowerman (Friends of the Woodman's Center Project Manager).

  • Project Management Update: Delivered by Project Manager Sabrina Bowerman to the City Council.

  • Committee Revitalization: Focused on expanding our Friends volunteer base and committee responsibilities to branch into sister communities such as Milton and Beloit. Expressions of support are needed at all levels! Find out how you can be a community voice here. 


August - Unexpected Generosity and Support


  • Surprise Donation: Received a transformative $1 million anonymous gift to help fund locker rooms for Milton and Janesville high school hockey teams.

  • Community Backing: Public support from the Rotary Botanical Gardens Executive Committee shared. Janesville Jets announce their contribution to the project: In addition to $390K, the Wisconsin Hockey Partners are chipping in an extra 100 hours of ice time during off-peak hours, valued at $25,000, ensuring the Junior Jets skate into Janesville. According to a 2022 analysis by the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater's Fiscal and Economic Research Center, those dedicated Jets fans are set to boost our economy with an estimated annual impact of $1.7 million and $550K in labor income. Talk about a power play!


September - Visualizing the Future with Transparency


  • Design Reveal: Shared new renderings and a virtual project tour with the public.

  • Continued Advocacy: Engaged with the Governor's office and community leaders.

  • Transparency Continues: Larry Squire, Friends leader, provides City Council Update.

  • Rockstep Capital Shares Mall Vision: Announcements about what could be in store with RockStep Capital and Uptown Janesville - their innovative plans include crafting an all-in-one hub for family entertainment for residents or visitors. 

Drawing and rendering of Woodman's Center project

October - Expanding Outreach


  • Regional Outreach: Friends outreach extends to greater Rock County with Letter to the Editor support submitted by Carol Green of Milton, public support by Dr. Tracy Pierner, Blackhawk Tech, and Jim Hessenauer, head coach for Milton’s Co-op High School Hockey team.

  • Community Engagement: Increased project awareness through presentations and meetings across Rock County, including Edgerton Rotary Club, and meetings with local high schools, leaders, and prospective sponsors.


November - Financial and Legislative Milestones and Construction Prep


  • State Support: Secured an additional $15 million from Governor Evers. Thank you, Governor Evers! The announcement garnered statewide publicity and gained regional attention for the project.

  • Lawmaker Endorsement: The project was praised by local lawmakers. Thank you, Senator Mark Spreitzer and Representative Sue Conley.

  • Construction Bid Preparation: The City of Janesville published bid documents and held a mandatory pre-bid conference for prime contractors, showcasing the thoroughness of the process.


December - A Monumental Close to the Year


  • Construction Bid Opening: Bids for the facility's construction were opened, with the lowest bid just over $38 million from contractors, including JP Cullen & Sons, Inc. and Miron Construction Co., Inc.

  • Budget Success: The bids came in under the forecasted construction budget, marking a significant financial milestone in lowering total project costs.

  • Anticipation for 2024: City Manager Kevin Lahner expressed excitement for the next steps, with the City Council set to consider a construction contract on January 22.

  • Community Connection: We wouldn’t miss a balloon drop! Family and friends attend the free "Noon" Year's Eve Skate on December 31 at the Janesville Ice Arena!


As we close another chapter, we stand in awe of the unwavering support and dedication that the greater Janesville community has poured into the Woodman's Center. Every step this year has been bolstered by your commitment, igniting an even deeper resolve within us at the Friends of the Woodman’s Center. We're not just building a center; we're building a legacy that will stand as a testament to the unity and strength of our community.


Christine Rebout, co-chair of the Friends of the Woodman’s Center, reflects on the past year with a heart full of thanks: "As we look back on the tremendous advances made this year, our gratitude is immense. With every contribution and cheer from our community, our dedication to the success of the Woodman's Center is renewed and reinforced. The Friends are honored to be at the forefront, hand in hand with every partner, every business, and every individual who has joined us. Here's to trailblazing ahead as we eagerly anticipate the wonders we'll accomplish together for the Woodman's Center in 2024 and beyond."


Here's to our collective vision, shared efforts, and the bright future that awaits us all!


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