La Crosse parks department proposing new location for senior center
LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Seniors may soon have a new place to gather for activities and conversation. The La Crosse Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department is trying to create a new coalition and central location for seniors to use.
The senior population is growing in La Crosse. La Crosse parks officials are seeing a need for a place these people can go for their own choice of activities.
“We have a community that has a senior population of 15,000 plus,” said Jay Odegaard, director of La Crosse Parks, Recreation and Forestry. “That’s obviously a large demographic that deserves our attention.”
Odegaard said he wants to move on from the older senior community buildings in town.
“These buildings are costly,” Odegaard said.
A new parks department proposal would ask the city to fund a new single space in the old rubber mills building on St. Andrew Street.
“The city of La Crosse needs to focus on one community center,” Odegaard said.
The city operated two senior center locations. The Denton street location closed in 2019.
The Harry J. Olson Senior Center’s lease expires in December. Its members don’t want to see it close.
“This one’s been in existence since 1974. We have a lot of members who have been active since that time. This is their home.”
Tom Hammill is the interim president of the Harry J. Olson Senior Center. He said the center’s members want to try to fund the building themselves.
“It’s hard just to close the doors and tell people they have to move,” Hammill said.
However, they can fun their own programming and purchase the building from the city. But the parks department is proposing its own plan. It focuses on improving the overall programming for seniors in La Crosse.
City officials will have to decide if the city’s operating budget can support the nearly $8,000 per month cost of renting a proposed new space.
Hammill said these centers are important to the people who use them.
“This is a place for people to go somewhere to get out of their homes,” Hammill said. “A location to sit down and have a cup of coffee and meet with friends.”
The total cost for renting this new facility would run close to $94,000 annually. Officials at the Harry J. Olson facility said they will try to come up with a plan to keep their building open after 2020.
The city would be willing to sell them the building for a dollar, but they would still face operating expenses. The common council will take up the proposal Feb. 13. The full proposal can be found here. 1407 St Andrew Street Proposal.