This rendering from Ayers and Associates shows the site plan for the $3.15 million Veterans Memorial Pool project.

Construction on Veterans Memorial Pool will get started next week after the La Crosse Heritage Preservation Commission gave the plans its stamp of historical approval Wednesday night.

“We’re really going to do our best to pay respect to the history of the facility itself, while still trying to offer a pool that’s up to codes and standards of today,” La Crosse parks, recreation and forestry superintendent Jay Odegaard told the commission.

Members of the commission approved of the way the plans incorporated historic aspects in the existing bathhouse, while not trying to create a fake historic look elsewhere.

Commissioner Chris Kahlow mentioned the addition that will house the mechanical equipment, specifically, saying it was unnecessary to try to match the bricks of the new addition to the existing building.

“You don’t have to make it look like it and spend a lot of money on that brick, is my feeling,” Kahlow said.

Commissioner Marc Zettler added, “I like the placement of the addition, how it’s set back from the façade.”

The plans also incorporate the original yellow tiles on the inside walls of the bathhouse.

“People 80 years from now will appreciate that, believe it or not,” said council member Jessica Olson, who chairs the commission.

The design also includes eight swimming lanes, an open swim area 3 to 4 feet deep and the opportunity for a water slide or diving boards. It incorporates marble slabs from the existing pool walls, which will be repurposed into a memorial for veterans to include a flagpole.

“Ayres and Associates has already taken one and polished it. It actually comes out to a very unique emerald marble,” Odegaard said.

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That marble also will be incorporated in other design aspects, such as countertops.

The pool closed in 2015 after analysis found it would need at least $40,000 in repairs and had significant water leaks. The closure prompted public outcry and advocates nominated it for historic status with the Heritage Preservation Commission, which voted in favor of recognizing the 80-year-old pool’s history as the first public pool in the city. The pool was built using a Progress Works Administration program that was part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.

A working group made up of council president Martin Gaul, city engineer Randy Turtenwald and Odegaard worked with Ayres to develop a plan to get the project moving forward and complete by the beginning of the 2019 swimming season.

Earlier this month, the La Crosse Common Council approved allocating $1.79 million, including $500,000 in expected donations, to the project, adding to the $1.47 million already set aside, and accepted a $3.14 million bid from Wapasha Construction Co. Inc. of Winona, Minn., for the project.

A community group called Veterans Memorial Campaign also has pledged to contribute, raising funds from private donors to support the project.

Odegaard apologized for the delay in bringing the proposed plans back before the commission.

“It was not my intention at all to minimize the importance of the HPC. I think everyone in City Hall knows that you’re guys’ job is difficult and a lot of times you get put between a rock and a hard place,” Odegaard said.

With the final hurdles of construction complete, city officials said the pool should be open by the end of May 2019.

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



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.

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