The Amicus Club Rodeo in January 2014 probably will be the final event at the Rapides Coliseum before its makeover.

Construction on the project will cost about $23 million and will start in late January.

Voters approved a $23 million bond issue — backed by a 2.5-mill property tax — in November 2012 for the project, which will create an essentially new arena on the skeleton of the old coliseum.

Voters also passed a 1-mill tax to pay for coliseum operations over the next 20 years.

The nearly 50-year-old coliseum has struggled financially in recent years as it fell behind more modern facilities in its aesthetic and technological amenities.

“We feel good about it,” said Jay Lynch, principal at Barron Heinberg & Brocato, the Alexandria architectural firm that designed the new-look for the coliseum. “We’ve made a lot of progress. We’ve visited comparable facilities in Shreveport, Lafayette and Baton Rouge and came back with a wealth of information we can bring to the project.”

The rebuilding was sold to the public as a way to attract big-name entertainment to Alexandria and draw more visitors.

The architectural firm is about halfway through the design phase on the project, Lynch said.

As architects delved deeper into cost estimates, the design has been altered slightly. Big-picture upgrades — including facade, seating and parking — remain in the plans. Some technology upgrades — such as wi-fi and cellphone upgrades — have been deleted to bring the project in on budget but Lynch said they will be addressed later.

Construction is expected to take at least 18 months. The coliseum, located on La. 28, is projected to reopen in the second half of 2015.