La Crosse Center expansion project clears final major hurdle

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Thursday night, the La Crosse Common Council approved the La Crosse Center expansion design, paving the way for the project to break ground this year.

"There are no other major votes left. We've got by the conceptual stage about two months ago. We got through the schematic, what we call, last night and so we're a go unless something very, very unusual happens," said La Crosse Center Board President Brent Smith.

It's been a quick turnaround following the previous design that was vetoed by La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat, because of the cost and placement into Riverside Park.

"The fact that the veto was not overridden, that it was sustained and like I said the community, our stakeholders, the La Crosse Center, they really spent the last nine months now working to develop a plan that met those goals. And they did a wonderful job," said Kabat.

The project will add more than 60,000 square feet to the center that hosts concerts, conventions and community events, through additional ballrooms and meeting rooms as well as other renovations.

Smith says the final design that was approved by the council meets all the goals the center board set out for the project more than five years ago.

"One, we thought we needed some what we call deferred maintenance and we've gotten that. We've gotten $6.7 million, a lot of it in the arena. Two, we said we need to do a better job at circulation, or interconnectedness, of the La Crosse Center and we've got that in many, many ways and so that goal has been met. And then three, we said we'd always want to take advantage of the west, " said Smith.

The vote was unanimous at the meeting Thursday night, a sign of the importance of the project to the region.

"I think it is a really good consensus where everybody pulled together at the end and realized that this was what's best for the community and the fact that it was unanimous I think is pretty remarkable," said Kabat.

Smith and Kabat say the only votes left are to determine financing methods, which could include an increase in the hotel room tax.