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With a final design concept for the La Crosse Center renovation and expansion approved, La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat is moving forward with finalizing plans to get the $42 million project funded.

Mayor Tim Kabat

Kabat

Kabat has requested La Crosse County and the city of Onalaska chip in for the project, asking for an annual contribution which adds up to $2 million for the county over 20 years and $500,000 for Onalaska over 10.

Because the expansion will have a regional economic impact of an estimated $44 million per year, compared to the convention center’s current $38 million per year impact, Kabat said he asked the region to chip in to fund it.

The mayor asked La Crosse County to consider contributing $100,000 per year for 20 years in a letter sent March 21.

Projections show the La Crosse Center expansion would bring in $60,000 to $70,000 more in sales tax annually, Kabat said, which is a tax collected by the county.

“We’re asking for a little bit on top of that just because of the regional benefit,” Kabat said.

County leaders have met with La Crosse Center folks about the potential for chipping in, but conversations stalled after the first concept was vetoed by Kabat last July.

La Crosse County Board Chair Tara Johnson

Johnson

La Crosse County Board Chair Tara Johnson said the county was open to considering the request, but she’s heard from members who were taken aback by the amount and said there are some questions that need answers before they move forward.

“We want to be certain that the city is moving ahead with the project, and we want to be certain that we understand the financing plan and the impact a county contribution would have on that plan,” Johnson said.

Johnson asked whether that contribution would go to offset the portion of debt service paid by city of La Crosse property taxpayers, offset an increase to the room tax or be used in some other way, saying that’s an important question to answer before the county makes its decision.

She also asked what role the county would play in the La Crosse Center’s future and what the relationship between the city and county would be.

To formally consider the request, Johnson said, a supervisor will need to sponsor a resolution that will go before the Executive Committee before being discussed by the full board.

Kabat asked Onalaska for $50,000 per year for 10 years. He is slated to speak to the Onalaska Common Council at its May meeting. City Administrator Eric Rindfleisch was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

The regional funding is only a portion of the financing plan. The La Crosse Common Council in 2016 approved bonding for $35 million for the project and in May it will look at whether the borrowing will be all 20-year general obligation bonds or a mix of general obligation and 40-year lease revenue bonds.

The city of La Crosse is also looking into increasing the hotel room taxes and adding a ticket surcharge.

“I’m hoping that in May we’ll have answers to all of those questions,” Kabat said.

The project also has received a tourism grant from the state of Wisconsin, and the La Crosse Center Board has discussed selling naming rights to the facility, as well as specific rooms.

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Jourdan Vian can be reached at jvian@lacrossetribune.com or follow her on Twitter at @Jourdan_LCT.

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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.

(13) comments

Brice Prairie

Looks like somebody bought a Porsche on a Yugo budget, someone needs to learn a little financial discipline.

How much profit does the LAX Center produce a year?

Don't quote the impact values to the local establishments seeing as that is hypothetical.

crank

As a county resident and one who has purposely built a home and business outside the La Crosse city limits, I say “No!”

Travis422

If city and or county citizens are going to pay for it we should get a discount on tickets for events or something? Better yet fix things the thing that are broken we drive on daily

Mr Wizard

How about businesses kicking in, as they are the direct beneficiaries of Lacrosse Center events. What do you think Lacrosse Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Mainstreet and whatever other hospitality interests that are in the area? The Center has never put a dollar in most citizen's pockets so why ask them to float the boat all alone? More fun to spend other people's money, isn't it.

canman

Lacrosse officials can’t differentiate between a want and a need.

capedcrusader

You got that right.

JS

The La Crosse Center and the La Crosse Airport should had never been run by the city. Both should be passed along to the County.

ElPresidente

Why don't you all just move if it's so bad here?

LaCrosseTaxPayer

How about Mr bankruptcy “chip in” 5 or 10K a year for the next 20 years out of his own pocket, since he’s the one digging this town into a hole after all he just gave himself and cronies a big raise and then raise water cost by 20%.
How about raising Social Security 20% so we can keep up with all the wasteful spending in this town!!
It will take over 32 years to reach a breakeven point of a $4.2 million contract with Johnson Controls Inc. to upgrade lights in four different city buildings! The $42 million La Crosse Center renovation will never come close to breaking even!! How much would we save if the employees would just turn off lights when not needed? How about turning down the heat and limit the A/C Mr. Bankruptcy won’t be happy till he digs this city in a dollar hole so deep there will be no way out!! This clown needs to go, along with his supporters and spend happy fools at city hall, and the morons on the clowncel that are clueless!! We the tax payers and voters will remember this at the poles and you spend happy fools will go to the unemployment line!!!!
How about fixing the roads and stop lights, West ave and Jackson has not worked properly since August 2018, when I called to report it I was told a cable was broke, so why not fix it!! Why are we spending 10 times the cost for sensor controlled lights compared to timer controlled lights If the morons at city hall can’t or won’t fix something as simple as a cable maybe we should fire them all and find someone that can or will fix it!!!!!!!!!!

Jobaba

But Onalaska has the Omni Center! Sold as a convention center it is a piece of Shockey stadium instead. Oh what a favor the piece of Shockey fans did for Onalaska. Heck yes, raise taxes in Onalaska to help La Crosse!

DMoney

I'm ok chipping on. We must maintain a nice convention and entertainment center in the region. Especially with the imminent collapse of valley view mall.

Creekside

La Crosse has over built and over spent on the LaCrosse Center. Now they have dug themselves a financial hole. I moved to Shelby years ago because the City taxes are just too high

capedcrusader

They aren't much better in Shelby and going to get worse.

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