Proposed La Crosse Center renovations would bring in visitors, millions in revenue

Depending on how a proposed expansion of the La Crosse Center moves forward, the city could see millions of dollars of direct economic impact throughout the community.

A study released this week looked at three different scenarios for the expansion and renovation of the center. Regardless of which option is used, the biggest benefit could be seen in visitors spending money on hotel bookings, meals and retail.

The last time that the La Crosse Center was expanded was in 2000 when the south hall was added to the facility.

“It brought in a lot of new business for us and gave the building a new, fresh look. And gave us some more space to work with and events that weren’t coming our way,” said Art Fahey, the La Crosse Center director.

By expanding the Center west toward the Mississippi River, the board hopes to beat out competing spaces in nearby areas like the Dells and Rochester.

“It’s going to be a little bit different-looking space for a lot of the folks and we think it’s going to attract different clientele for us. And open a door for us that we haven’t seen before,” Fahey said.

The financial report prepared by Conventional Wisdom and Gensler, an architectural firm, estimated that the project would bring in between 14,000 and 25,000 new visitors.

“It’s going to mean more people coming to La Crosse and not only using the center, but whether it be a hotel in Downtown La Crosse or a restaurant in La Crosse,” said Brent Smith, president of the La Crosse Center Board.

Based on estimates for lodging, dining and shopping, the study found that visitors who stay overnight would spend about $6 to $9 million annually in the area.

“There might be more jobs that are created outside the La Crosse Center than at the La Crosse Center by this increased use,” Smith said.

The report did find that there would be additional staffing and an increase in other operational expenses, so they’ll be looking at ways to offset those costs.

“If we do this variation and this variation, what does that mean to the economic operating budget for the building,” said Fahey.

But at the end of the day it takes money to earn money.

“If we didn’t expand, we would risk losing business. We can’t stand still,” Smith said.

Fahey says that once the center receives the calculations on the different expansion variations, they hope to be able to present a recommendation to the city council within the next two months. Once the recommendation is made, Center officials would like to break ground on the project sometime in late summer or early fall of 2018.