A yearlong spurt of four hotel openings in downtown La Crosse in 2015 and 2016 has added 392 new guest rooms downtown.
And the Gundersen Hotel & Suites, expected to open in mid-August adjacent to the Gundersen Health System La Crosse campus, will add another 67 guest rooms.
The Don and Roxanne Weber family began a yearlong spurt of downtown La Crosse hotel room growth with the September 2015 opening of The Charmant Hotel, a 67-room, $32 million boutique hotel in the former Joseph B. Funke Candy Co. factory at 101 State St.
The Webers completed the yearlong spurt by opening their 107-room Home2 Suites by Hilton hotel at 210 Jay St. in July 2016.
Once the Gundersen Hotel & Suites opens, there will be 967 hotel rooms in downtown La Crosse, said A.J. Frels, executive director of the La Crosse County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
And once the Gundersen hotel opens, there will be 2,424 hotel and motel rooms in La Crosse County, as well as 25 bed and breakfast rooms, Frels said.
The opening of new hotels has had a positive economic impact on the downtown and on local tourism, Frels agreed.
“It’s always helpful to have a variety of different lodging facilities in your area,” Frels said. The more variety in lodging inventory, the broader the market the area can attract, he said.
Having the additional hotel rooms also increases the chances of attracting more and larger conventions.
“As far as larger conventions goes, I applaud the forward-thinking business people we have in our area,” Frels said. “More times than not, communities build a large convention center and then simply don’t have the sleeping rooms to accommodate the number of attendees that the center can hold.
“Because of the forward thinking, we are way ahead of the game,” Frels said. “As we look to the future of the remodeling of the La Crosse Center, we are poised and ready to accommodate those attendees.”
Both Frels and Don Weber said they haven’t heard of anyone planning to build an additional hotel. Weber said he thinks the need for more downtown hotels rooms has been met with the opening of the new hotels.
Don Weber said his family bought the former Funke Candy building because it was historic, and they wanted to save it. His son Nick “did a lot of research and came up with the idea of a boutique hotel,” Weber said.
The Weber family later decided to build the Home2 Suites by Hilton, which is near the La Crosse Center.
Weber recalls going to a few meetings that La Crosse Center officials had with consultants. “One of the things they kept talking about was that you need more rooms down here if you want bigger conventions, more conventions,” he said.
The new hotels also attract tourists as well as people who are traveling on business to downtown companies.