La Crosse Center Board recommends $49 million renovation project

The La Crosse Center Board voted Wednesday to recommend a renovation design, seen here, which extends over Front Street and Riverside Park.

The La Crosse Center Board Wednesday recommended the city move forward with a $49 million, 98,866-square-foot design for the center’s renovation and expansion project.

Jessica Olson mug


Council member Jessica Olson, who joined the board in April, made the motion in favor of the mid-level design, which came in between the $55 million, 127,840 square-foot and $45 million, 75,200 square-foot designs provided by architecture firms Gensler and ISG, working with Kraus-Anderson Construction.

“First of all, I believe it gets us in the sweet spot as far as cost per square foot,” she said.

In her experience, Olson said, that number, which comes out to about $416 per square foot, is a good indicator of how much money they will be able to make off of a project.

Brent Smith


Board president Brent Smith said the design combines all of the priorities the board had coming into the renovation project, including a new entrance to better welcome visitors, a larger ballroom and other features to take advantage of the view of the Mississippi River.

The design includes a 17,669-square-foot ballroom which will be suspended over Front Street and include an entrance from Riverside Park, as well as 12,000 square feet of additional meeting rooms. It also calls for a redesign of the main entrance off of Second Street and a wrap-around hallway to connect the front- and back-ends of the building.

“As far as the overall look and impact to the city, I believe a well-designed expansion toward the west, toward our park, is the best way forward in terms of the aesthetic impact to the downtown and to our community,” Olson said.

She also acknowledged that the Center’s downtown neighbors strongly preferred leaving the corridor down to Riverside Park off of Pearl Street clear for pedestrians.

“As far as the capacity to earn money and expand markets, the ballroom space and meeting space is balanced,” Olson said. “We don’t want to end up with a ballroom that does not have adequate meeting room space for conventions, trade shows and that to be able to have breakout sessions.”

The price tag comes in at $7.2 million more than the $42 million currently budgeted for the city-owned convention center.

The recommendation will go to the La Crosse Common Council; however, the board will wait until the economic impact study is finalized before asking the council to approve spending more money.

Preliminary numbers suggest the chosen design will add about 18,000 to 22,000 new annual visitors and have a $12.1 million annual impact, potentially leading to more than 150 new jobs in the La Crosse area.

“We think there are probably some things we’d like to talk further with Gensler about,” Smith said, particularly when it comes to projected La Crosse Center operational costs.

“The economic impact statement is very important, not only as to the larger effect on the community, but the effect on this building and how it’s going to operate,” he said.

The board stressed how important it was to have the best, most-informed estimates available when they ask the council to weigh in.

“We owe it to them to be as accurate as possible in combing both industry norms with their computer modeling and marrying that with what information is available from books here in house,” Olson said.


La Crosse city government reporter

Jourdan Vian is a reporter and columnist covering local government and city issues for the La Crosse Tribune. You can contact her at 608-791-8218.

(16) comments


People howled at the original design when KA built it in 1980. Then they got used to it. This retrofit is pretty plain, but functional and, probably, a cheaper option than many possible designs.
People will always gripe because a public building or artwork doesn't meet THEIR expectations. C'est la vie!


I think I like it. I just worry and believe that it will end up taking more green space away from Riverside park than the current plan shows in that photo. It'll also block views and get rid of a lot of trees. But that south end of the park isn't quite as bustling and used as the rest of the park. And you'd have a great view of fourth of july fireworks from the ballroom overlooking the river haha. Overall, solely with this information given, I support the project. Hopefully some kind of humanitarian impact or art exhibits or more appealing concerts to my taste will come of this project. And it looks cool, too. I mean, we know how important the new Overture Center and Memorial Union are to the aesthetic and economic value of Madison. A new and MUCH more appealing La Crosse Center could draw a lot of people to La Crosse and really improve first impressions of this city. If people judge a city by its cover, like I tend to do, the benefit of this project is immeasurable.


How will this make money you ask? The naming rights along of "The La Crosse XBox Arena" would bring in millions, especially since it's made to look like a giant XBox!!!


The green space in the middle of downtown is priceless. It already attracts people. The proposed building is an eyesore and in the future will be looked at as a colossal error much the way Myrick Park and the removal of the Court House and Post Office are. A park in the shade under a building is not much of a park. If the green space is reduced where will the trade off be? Perhaps the area north of the La Crosse river should should be converted to park land? No, that is meant for developers to make money. City vitalization is a combination of attractions, both manmade and more natural. You cannot skimp on either. Try to have both here is foolishness at its best. A park, or a building. Also note that while you can easily quantify how much revenue is brought by a convention center, it is more difficult to do that with a park. But I would suggest that the beauty of Riverside is worth far more than people realize.


Why dont they show us a picture of the underside of the thing; because that is what will be visible to us from ground level.

This is the most ridiculous thing ever. Stealing part of Riverside Park for this thing is a crime against nature and the citizens of La Crosse.


No, no, and NO. It looks horrible.


Please don't encroach on our beautiful Riverside Park. We have one of the best riparian parks on the entire Mississippi River. This will negatively impact the public's use of the park.


This is the ugliest structure I have ever seen. It doesn't match any of the new building or previous revitalization projects. It looks to protrude and cover most of Riverside park on the north side, all the way to the River. Once it is built and people gaze upon the ugliness, there will be outrage in the community.


Gosh, Brant, I know I probably haven't been where you've been in your life, but you must have only been in beautiful, pristine places if this is the ugliest structure you have ever seen. It may not be as beautiful as Monona Terrace in Madison, Jefferson's Monticello or the Taj Mahal, but it has pleasing, clean lines of a modern building built for function to my mind. If you want it to match other new buildings in that area, I suppose it could be built of brick to match the Riverside Center buildings to achieve that pleasing late Soviet architectural uniformity look so admired worldwide.

Buggs Raplin

I totally agree. It's super ugly. But that doesn't matter to the local elite. And there'll be no real political opposition to it, as the city council is mostly a rubber stamp.


I totally agree, Buggs. The City Council membership was handpicked by the Deep State cabal that is in the hire of the World Government elitists who make up The Establishment, and that is why everything in La Crosse is done on the orders from Langley, the New York City Soho arts community and that place in Europe where all the cabalists meet to make their plans for the world and feast on baked human children supplied by that pizzeria in Washington DC patronized by Congressional members who are pedophiles, which I think is all of them with possible exception of Rand Paul. Unless President Trump against all odds with his struggles the lying mainstream media is able to pull our irons from the fire, we're sunk like fish in a barrel on a cold day in Heaven, to coin a really cool phrase.

Buggs Raplin

I see you've come out from the weeds with your usual bullsh*t.


I think you struck a nerve, homey! But you missed a few conspiracies.


So as a taxpayer in the city, how does this help me? Serious question... It's not financially helping me. My paycheck isn't any bigger. My taxes aren't going down...


It's not all about you... It does help drive a better economy for the city which in turn benefits all residents.


It helps you by employing people in the construction trade, the event production business, the hotel business, bars, restaurants, retail shops and gas stations. It brings people to town to spend money. It makes the LaCrosse Center competitive with other mid-sized towns with convention halls. People who come for conventions will see what the city is like and will hopefully return with their families as tourists.
Your paycheck might not be getting any bigger, but thousands of other people will see their pay go up. And they'll pay taxes.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access for the month.

Now it's time to activate or sign up for unlimited access!

Thank you for signing up!

We have not been able to find your subscription.

Current Subscriber?

Current Subscriber?


Don't have a subscription?