It would cost the city an estimated $75 million to do the full “wish list” of potential renovations and expansion work at the downtown La Crosse Center.
Realistically, it won’t all happen, members of the La Crosse Center Board noted Tuesday. But they wanted consultant David Greusel of Convengence Design to provide figures on all possible options, no matter the cost, before the board seeks the public’s opinion on what actually should be done at the city’s main convention and events venue.
“David is delivering what we asked for,” said Art Fahey, center director. “Now we need to pick and choose.”
That will happen when the board hosts a public planning charrette later this summer to determine priorities for a major overhaul of the center, which last saw significant work with the $14 million South Hall addition in 2000.
Coordinating with La Crosse Center staff and stakeholders, Greusel’s firm assembled a sweeping list of improvements that would add or better utilize space at the facility while staying within the building’s current footprint. They range from arena upgrades that have been put off for years to far more ambitious — and expensive — alternatives.
Those prospective renovations include installing a walkway that would wrap around the building, rather than forcing visitors to go outside to enter a different part of the center; adding wide, glass-enclosed balconies along the west side to provide more socializing space and highlight the river view; creating a second ballroom in the North Hall; and making the entrances along Second Street less confusing and all connected to a general lobby area.
Some of the designs have stairs from the west side of the building into Riverside Park across Harborview Plaza and Front Street, but concerns have been raised about security at the center with that type of access. Yet it will be brought to the public as well.
Also still on the list is a “flexible theater,” with a raised roof and telescoping seats that would let it be used for events but could easily be converted to accommodate musical productions or other performances. The price tag is an estimated $6.5 million, but board members made it clear the theater likely won’t be in the final plans unless a partner steps forward that wants to share the space and expense.
The board intends to have the public session within 30 to 60 days, so the board can finalize the plans and bring them to the Common Council before year’s end. An announcement will be made when those dates are set.
“We want to keep this process moving,” said attorney Brent Smith, board chairman.