Flexibility was the focus of the La Crosse Center Board on Wednesday as it approved both concepts proposed last week for the $42 million renovation and expansion.
Board chairman Brent Smith recommended the group take more time to think over the concepts, both of which have a variety of design options moving forward, and that the board put both options in front of the La Crosse Common Council to get more input on what design elements members prefer.
“To me, if we’re going to act, that serves a couple different goals,” Smith said.
The decision moves things along and gets the concepts before the La Crosse Common Council during its January meeting. Also, it would allow the public to weigh in again during a Dec. 20 public input session before the board makes a recommendation and asks the council to vote.
“And it allows us as a board to get more information before we make that decision,” Smith said.
The board reviewed the concepts, one of which focuses on the north side of the building and the other the west, during a public input session Nov. 28, leaving several members feeling like they needed a bit more time to take in the public’s opinion before making up their own minds.
“I like that last one because it’s the maximum flexibility,” board member Doug Farmer said. “Otherwise it feels like the bum rush.”
The two concepts — both of which are viable with a $42 million budget — have a lot of overlap, with both including about 12,000 square feet of renovated area, 5,500 square feet of meeting rooms and areas for people to gather before events. More importantly, both ideas include an atrium facing Second Street with new restrooms and a new concessions area, something the architects said were priorities that allow for multiple events.
The board isn’t turning either down, Farmer said, adding, “If we’d had an objection, we’d state it now. We think both of them are worthy of moving forward.”
Scott Neumeister, who represents the La Crosse Common Council on the board, agreed, saying there wasn’t adequate time for the board to choose.
“I think moving both of them ahead is the right thing to do, and then we can move from there with more public input,” Neumeister said.
That public input session will let people weigh in on questions of what design elements they prefer, both inside and out, as well as what other aspects of the expansion are important to them.
The concepts will be flexible going into the design process, said Will Kratt, a member of the architecture team from ISG.
“The options in front of you are extremely flexible. The finished product is going to be very flexible. You know, the spaces of tomorrow are different from yesterday, where they are much more multi-function,” Kratt said. “Also in the decision-making process, we’ve tried to make this as flexible as possible.”
Kratt listed some future design decisions that will come up through the process that the board, public and La Crosse elected officials will have the chance to weigh in on, such as what the design team calls “bolt-ons.”
The bolt-ons, including a second connecting corridor from the north and south side of the building, skywalk modifications and a rooftop terrace, among others, are design options that could be added on to the base concepts if the board chooses.
The size of some of the rooms also isn’t set, Kratt said. The size of the ballroom, the size of meeting rooms and the atrium will also be set through the design process.
“It’s not off the table to bring the North Hall back to the same size that it is,” he said.
Board member Nancy Flottmeyer was pleased to see those things weren’t necessarily set.
“It’s still fluid if we say we prefer west, but we’d prefer a bigger exhibit hall, that’s still OK,” she said.
The board went over preliminary responses to the survey released last week and brainstormed ideas to get more people to answer its questions. The survey is available at thenewlacrossecenter.com.