The La Crosse Center is under economic pressure not to delay its expansion plans for too long.
La Crosse Center director Art Fahey told the Center Board on Tuesday that convention planners are hesitant to book future meetings in the building until the $42-million project is done.
That could mean a shortage of large meetings coming to the Center in 2019. Fahey, however, said other events can keep bringing in money during construction time.
“The entertainment side, actually, with the arena, is actually perking up a little bit,” Fahey said. “That doesn’t mean concerts, necessarily, but everything from WWE wrestling and Harlem Globetrotters — those kind of events that that come back to us, not every year, but frequently.”
The Center is expected to host at least 20 conventions next year — a total down from usual numbers, because of expansion plans.
After the renovations are completed, probably in 2020, Fahey expects a surge of convention business.
“People want to come to the shiny new place,” Fahey said. “Once we’re there, I think we’ll see that activity again, I think it’ll perk right back up.”
Fahey added that the center became a more popular convention destination after its most recent expansion, nearly 20 years ago.
“That happened back in 2000 when we really perked back up,” Fahey said. “We were over 40 (conventions) back then. Our success was doing multiple small conventions and we really saw a spike in that.”
Board president Brent Smith said City Hall wants an ‘aggressive timetable’ for building plans to be completed, so renovations can start on the 38-year-old civic center.
Board member Doug Farmer said the conventions have the greatest economic impact on other downtown businesses.