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Business questions reasoning behind renovation plans for La Crosse Center

Brad Williams



The proposed west addition to the La Crosse Center is a hit with a city council committee but it’s drawing criticism from one company that puts on events there.  

The finance and personnel committee has approved the plan to remodel the side of the civic center that faces the Mississippi River, which could cost up to $42 million.

That, however, isn’t such a good idea according to Chris Navratil, the vice president of Shamrock Productions, which brings a sport and travel show to the center every year.  

Navratil told the finance committee Thursday night that a west-side addition might actually reduce existing exhibition space, like North Hall.

“Why has the entire addition been focused on a river view?” she asked. “Is this a convention center or are you designing it based on how a hotel or restaurant would remodel with an outdoor plaza that can only be used a few months out of the year?”

Her reasoning behind objecting to remove and rebuild the North Hall was simple.

“How is taking out a 15,000 square foot north hall that can be rented for multiple uses, and turning it into a less rental space better?” she asked. “Ground level rentable space is the most valuable space in any convention center.”

Architects for the project say no decisions have been made about North Hall yet.  The west option goes to the full city council next week.

Council member Doug Happel likes the west option but wants to be sure the project doesn’t go beyond the $42 million budget limit approved by the council last July.

“I don’t know what the mayor would do,” Happel said. “I don’t know what the rest of the council would do. But there was a very clear message a few months ago — it’s $42 million, not $42,000,001.”

La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat vetoed a previous plan that was going to cost around $49 million. The main objection to that plan, however, was that it was going to cover a large portion of Riverside Park.

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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  1. Avatar

    Dawn Kinard

    January 4, 2019 at 8:35 am

    LEAVE OUR PARK ALONE!!!!!! Belongs to the people that pay for it, not the city’s right to steal!!! Ms. Navratil is correct in “her” thinking thank you.

    • Avatar

      Jolene Lien

      January 6, 2019 at 1:26 pm

      They are no longer encroaching into the park.

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