The renovated La Crosse Center would have greater connectivity, a rooftop terrace and a 12,000-square-foot exhibit hall, all for $200,000 under its $42 million budget, according to the final schematic design concept approved Friday by the center board.
It took eight meetings in three months, but the board managed to compare all the variables and find a concept that both meets the parameters set by the La Crosse Common Council and brings in features to add extra sizzle to the design necessary to keep business booming.
From day one, the priority was improving the building’s connectivity, taking better advantage of the view and expanding space for conventions, said La Crosse Center Board Chair Brent Smith. The special features, called bolt-ons by the architecture team with ISG working on the design, will all support those goals.
“We did some compromising and cut back on some things and here we are $200,000 under budget. I think that’s really very important, and to some degree, I’ll say surprising,” Smith said. “It was difficult choices, but I think we all came together.”
After pricing it out, the board decided to spend $1.28 million on a skyway to connect the existing ballroom with the new 12,000-square-foot ballroom on the west side of the building.
“To be able to have that connector, especially now with a bigger center, I think was just essential,” Smith said.
The board discussed adding a balcony, but eventually switched it to a rooftop terrace atop North Hall, which Smith said accomplished more at a lower price. The terrace will have open seating for events or food and drinks, while also featuring the view of Riverside Park and Mississippi River.
“We feel it’s really going to be a popular spot,” Smith said, and it would be more accessible than a balcony.
One of the longest discussions the board had was deciding how large to rebuild North Hall. Smith said it was a difficult decision with good arguments for rebuilding it at 15,000 square feet, but ultimately, they decided to split the difference between the original proposal of 7,500-square-feet and the full size, recommending a 12,000-square-foot space.
“It wasn’t quite what people had wanted, but it was in the budget,” Smith said, saying the experts who weighed in on what the center will need were comfortable with the size.
The board also voted to add meeting rooms and reduce the size of the lobby.
“We thought we could save money there,” Smith said.
Council member Scott Neumeister, who represents the council on the center board, was pleased with what the board came up with.
“I’m very excited over this,” Neumeister said. “I think we’ve hit the nail on the head as much as we can.”
It was difficult as they weighed priorities like connectivity and drawing in big events to the exhibit hall, but the board was able to make it work with the help of La Crosse Center staff, as well as Explore La Crosse and the architecture team.
“We did a lot more than I thought we could,” said board member Amanda Halderson-Jackson.
Neumeister was confident that the new concept will be much more acceptable to the council and Mayor Tim Kabat than the previous one, and not only due to the price. The concept includes the ballroom and extends west, but stops short of Riverside Park.
“The park honestly was the big hang-up the last time, and we’re not touching the park,” Neumeister said.
The $42 million expansion and renovation project is expected to bring an additional $6.3 million in economic impact to La Crosse County, according to a study released Wednesday.
The board will join with the La Crosse Common Council and Redevelopment Authority at 4:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall to talk about the financing plan. The public is invited to attend and learn more.