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Band Shell

Members of the music community are raising money to build a shelter for the band shell at Riverside Park.

Riverside Park’s historic bandstand could get a roof over its head thanks to a group of civic-minded organizations.

A consortium of organizations that use the stand — including Rotary Lights, Moon Tunes, La Crosse Concert Band, Riverfest, La Crosse Jazz Orchestra and Explore La Crosse — went before the city’s Heritage Preservation Commission on Thursday to talk options for a shell atop the Wendell Anderson Bandstand.

The group took its vision, designed by architect Roald Gundersen, to the commission for input before it brings it back for approval next month. Because the bandstand is considered a historic landmark, any changes need the Heritage Preservation Commission’s input to move forward.

“We think the design we have has merit. It’s going to provide shelter for musicians or even weddings,” said David Clements, who spoke on behalf of the consortium.

The design incorporates a round timber structure with arches mirroring the bridge, ash tree columns and a copper fish-scale roof similar to the one on the Pettibone Park Shelter across the Mississippi River.

“It is wood, which ties into the history of La Crosse and the logging industry that La Crosse really started 150 years ago,” Clements said. “We think it works well, rather than using steel or stone. You try to match stone, it doesn’t work, plus you have a historic facility, so this would be a complement to it.”

Gundersen added that the materials would be rot-resistant and durable so as to be low-maintenance, and would serve the needs of the musicians who regularly use the bandstand for free public concerts.

“The structure is not only meant to protect the people on stage, but it’s also an acoustically designed structure, which has been a big issue for the concert band, as well as the jazz band, where the performers can’t necessarily hear themselves on stage to be an effective group, let alone be able to project that toward the audience,” Gundersen said.

Plans call for it to be above the bandstand with the addition of wood pillars where the current ones, added in 1980, stand.

The groups plans to raise the estimated $500,000 themselves, and then donate the finished product to the city. It’s already 20 percent toward its goal, Clements said.

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The design got an enthusiastic response from commissioner Chris Kahlow, who praised the decisions to incorporate the structure of La Crosse’s bridges and pull in the logging heritage through the wooden materials.

“I am just so thrilled. I will say, I am the person who brought the designation of the bandstand to this commission many years ago, so to see this and see that it’s going to be restored and have the needs of the musicians met too, I’m just ecstatic,” Kahlow said.

She thanked the group for their hard work, as did commission chair and council member Jessica Olson.

The shell will complement a city project, approved last year, in which the council allocated $1.14 million to renovate the bandstand and fix its electrical system.

“We’re just restoring it to what it was,” said parks and recreation director Steve Carlyon in an interview Wednesday. “It’s not going to get any larger. It has to stay in that same footprint because it’s in the floodplain.”

The design for the city’s project dates back to before the stand was built in 1930 and calls for removing the concrete block decking and restoring the original limestone. The final architectural drawings will go before the commission in July, as will the designs for the shell.

After the meeting, Olson added that she was pleased to see the project took the historic preservation portion seriously, saying, “It was a tremendous, important enrichment to the community.”


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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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Reporter

Jourdan Vian is a reporter and columnist covering crime and courts for the La Crosse Tribune. You can contact her at 608-791-8218 or jvian@lacrossetribune.com.

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