American Legion building to make way for La Crescent event center

The American Legion Building at 509 N. Chestnut Ave. in La Crescent will soon be the location of the La Crescent Area Event Center.

Alex Graaff, Houston County News

The age-old phrase “out with old and in with the new” will be put into practice in the spring in La Crescent.

The American Legion building, 509 N. Chestnut Ave. — built in the late 1940s and home to La Crescent’s American Legion Post 595 — will be torn down to make room for La Crescent Area Event Center scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2019.

The American Legion will leave the building in January and construction will start in the spring.

“When my son got married he had his reception at the Four Seasons in Caledonia,” American Legion organizer Dick Wieser said. “I remember thinking why can’t La Crescent have a facility like this one? Every other community in the area has one?”

The 13,000-square-foot building will be owned by the nonprofit La Crescent Event Center. It came to fruition after a four-year process.

“Our first collaboration took place on Mike Limberg’s porch four years ago,” American Legion organizer Sy Fix said.

The American Legion organizers: Fix, Wieser, Limberg, Joe Thesing and Dan Brodigan created a joint project with the city of La Crescent and hotel developer Hotel R&D.

“It’s happy but sad,” said longtime American Legion member Rose Albrecht. “My husband Mike Albrecht was on the committee. He passed away three years ago. This was his dream, too.”

The building will feature two outdoor seating areas, bar, banquet hall, American Legion room, outdoor connection to a hotel that will be constructed next to the building and a revamped Veterans Park.

Contrary to popular thought, the American Legion will not run the bar.

“The Legion will really have nothing to do with the running of the event center. It is its own entity. The hotel also will have nothing to do with the legion. It will be privately owned,” Fix said.

Legion-favorite annual events like a steak fry will be scheduled at the event center based on the center’s schedule.

“We want to encourage the community to use the center,” Fix said. “The events will depend on whether or not the center has something planned. That’s our priority. It needs to succeed.”

There is not yet a hotel brand associated with the project, but the hotel will have about 55 rooms, an indoor pool, a meeting room and will bring about 15 full-time positions to La Crescent.

“I wish it could open tomorrow,” Hotel R&D hotel researcher Mike Lindner said. “It’s a very rare opportunity to have a location like this with no other hotels. It’s a great location.”

The pathways will be paved with granite stones with the names of those who donated to the project etched into them. Those with a $10,000 or more donation will be featured on a donation wall in the entrance of the event center.

The event center project has raised $1 million of the $3.2 million needed to complete the project.

“I think it’s a great project,” said Sheila Wieser, Dick’s wife. “It’s something we really needed in the community. Senior citizens can come down to different community based events. I just know that Applefest is excited to use the hall for the Applefest coronation or styleshow. This is something we have waited for, for so long.”

Although there will be a lot of changes to the American Legion pocket of La Crescent, the city is committed to keeping the park atmosphere alive — a helicopter will stay on the park’s grounds.

“The park is a positive component to the new center and hotel,” La Crescent Mayor Mike Poellinger said. “It will be similar to how it is today. We want to maintain the area.”

As the American Legion prepares for its big move, locals have offered spaces for Legion meetings.

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