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There hasn’t been a lot of activity on the proposed La Crosse Center renovation and expansion in the last three months, but board chair Brent Smith said that will change in the next few months.

Brent Smith


Mayor Tim Kabat


“The pause button is off. I think, to be fair, we’re going to see a lot of activity in the next 60 to 90 days,” Smith said during the La Crosse Center Board’s Monday meeting.

In July, the La Crosse Common Council sustained Mayor Tim Kabat’s veto of the first expansion concept, which included a 27-foot-tall overhang that extended over about half an acre of Riverside Park. That detail prompted criticism from community members concerned about honoring the park’s history.

Moving forward, the next step is concepts, which are limited by the parameters set by the La Crosse Center Board in July. Those parameters prohibit the design from going into Riverside Park.

Within the next six weeks or so, the city’s consultants with ISG and Gensler, as well as Kraus Anderson, will have some concepts for the city-owned convention center’s proposed $42 million expansion ready for the public to weigh in on, and city officials will start organizing informational sessions.

One of the alternatives will be options to expand south toward the Radisson Center.

“The city obviously does not own the Radisson Center, but I think there’s some communications going on, so I think it’s wise to at least have that considered for potential use,” Smith said.

After the public makes its feelings known, the concepts will go back before the La Crosse Center Board and then through the La Crosse Common Council committee process.

“It’s sort of the same order, but probably done a little differently,” Smith said.

There will be more input from city staff, especially department heads, and more financial alternatives.

“There’s going to be more people on our team than last time, more people giving input,” Smith said.

Kevin Bills of ISG added that the group isn’t doing a complete rework of everything it did before the vote on the last concept.

“We had a lot of good information that we had gathered over the last year, year and a half there. We’ve had to go back and confirm some of those things, whether it was still a priority and those types of things, so that’s been an important part of what we’ve been doing,” Bills said.

While the board certainly doesn’t want to ram anything through the council, Smith said, it’s also sensitive to the urgency of its customers, who want to know how the renovation will affect them.

“What everybody loves — and meeting planners are like everybody else — is some certainty. If we can set some dates, I think it’s going to serve us pretty good,” Smith said.

The board continues to push to avoid shutting down the La Crosse Center during the renovation construction.

After the meeting, Smith weighed in on a measure going before the La Crosse Common Council Thursday to hire marketing agency Metre to provide communication services for the project.

While the board hasn’t formally voted on it, Smith said one of the things that came out of the previous concept vote was a desire by the community to know more about the project up front.

He couldn’t speak to the price or the specific issues, but said the board was generally in favor of getting some professional help as far as getting a website that could answer people’s questions.

“We would have welcomed that the first time around, but we didn’t feel we had the ability to go out and hire someone,” Smith said.

Scott Neumeister mug

Scott Neumeister

Council member Scott Neumeister, a newcomer to the La Crosse Center Board, stressed that it was important for the board to take a long look at its future, especially when it comes to maintenance.

“I think there’s so much pressure for the center not to lose money, that’s it’s hurting other areas and one of them is maintenance, obviously,” Neumeister said.

While he understood the reasons why the center is focused on staying in the black, he said most convention centers are not money-makers for municipalities.

“There’s a reason for the La Crosse Center convention center; it’s for the area. The area makes the money,” Neumeister said.

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


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.

(5) comments


Let's get Myrick Park back first . Then fix the roads in the City ,then the LaCrosse Center


Don't listen to the naysayers who have no clue about the economic impact of the tourism and events industries. Sensible development of the Center is an economic engine that benefits hotels, restaurants, bars and retail.


Smith and Kabat just want a bronze name plate on the wall commemorating their colossal waste of taxpayers money, when infrastructure is falling apart.


Please don't mess with Riverside Park, or second street - and please RESTORE the trees to our park - schedule festivals etc somewhere else instead of in the park - it's a mess all summer. Also, why does Weber get such special treatment with closing State St. in front of his restaurant for a day in the midst of summer with an obnoxious band that again chased people out of the park after they had to drive out of their way to even get to the park. Not to mention narrowing the street and installing the cruddy cobblestone in front of his property - hate that street now.


colossal waste of money and time. i dont understand what the obsession is to push this project through.

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