La Crosse Center officials hold “Topping off” tradition as expansion project takes shape

Community leaders sign final beam that will complete framework of $42 million project
La Crosse Center

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – The $42 million La Crosse Center expansion project is reaching another milestone. Construction on the framework of the building is almost complete.
Leaders of the project celebrated the unique tradition that involves one piece of the building itself.

Throughout the past several months, as the community continued to work out its problems during a global pandemic, crews down at the La Crosse Center went about their business.

“This is exciting we’ve got 40 percent of the building that’s what the contractors are telling us we’re at right now,” said Art Fahey, La Crosse Center director.

The La Crosse Center expansion project is one thing that has gone pretty much as planned.

“We’re in great shape as far as putting this building together on a time table,” Fahey said.

The plan has gone from a photograph to a physical object. Every beam plays an important role in this structure.

“Today we are having everyone who wants to come on down and sign this beam, which is the final beam that’s going to be put on the project,” said Brent Smith, La Crosse Center Board chair.

This is the tradition of “Topping Out”. People involved with the project get to put their name on history. The final beam was just a day away from completing the backbone of the La Crosse Center.

The backbone of the La Crosse community is made up of several pieces. The La Crosse Center is a large piece that holds the community together.

Canceled events in 2020 show what this center provides. The lack of the MOSES Organic Farming Conference alone cost the economy 2,700 visitors. The event was set for early 2021, but it will be a virtual event next year.

“It has reminded people of how important the center is to downtown La Crosse and to La Crosse generally,” Smith said.

Fahey and Smith were a part of past projects.

“I’ve been fortunate that this has been the second one that I’ve been part of,” Smith said.

Fahey was a part of the south hall project. The year 2000 was the last update to the building and believe it or not that was 20 years ago. This beam is a sign the center will soon be ready to welcome people back to La Crosse.

“In the end, it’s just going to be a tremendous plus for the community we live in,” Smith said.

Fahey said pictures don’t do the progress of the construction a justice.

“There’s a lot of significant pieces to this that people are going to be very proud of,” he said.

Wednesday the beam will be placed. The best gathering location to see the placement of the beam is on Front Street behind the La Crosse Center just north of the construction area. Part of the project is expected to be finished early next year.