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Gov. Evers in town Wed. for La Crosse Center open house, as $42-million expansion is complete



The governor will be in town Wednesday for an open house and to celebrate the completion of the $42 million La Crosse Center expansion and renovation project.

The public is welcome to check out the facility (map). The open house officially begins at 4 p.m.

“You can kind of do, like a self-guided tour,” Center director Art Fahey said Monday on La Crosse Talk PM. “If you want to go, take a look at what’s going on in the arena, we’ll have people stationed in the arena and they can talk about all the things that happen there. Same thing for the North Hall. 

“We will have a concession stand that we’re going to open up, that we’re going to be giving a few items out.”

3:30 p.m. — Re-dedication Pat Zielke Suite
4 p.m. — Open tour
5 p.m. — Speeches by Gov. Tony Evers, other elected officials

Gov. Tony Evers and other elected officials — La Crosse Mayor Mitch Reynolds, Assembly Rep. Jill Billings, state Sen. Brad Pfaff — will be on hand for the open house, along with Tourism Secretary-designee Anne Sayers, who Evers nominated in September.

They will take turns speaking, beginning at 5 p.m. Fahey said that should take about 30 minutes.

Construction on the project began just over two years ago. 

“The planning on this,” Fahey said, “was somewhere — five to six years — from the first time we started talking about, ‘What do you want the La Crosse Center to look, not next year, not in five years, what do you really want this building to be and provide to the community for 20 years, 30 years down the line? And that’s the kind of positioning. So, it took like five to six years of planning and two years of construction.”

Right away, people will notice changes as they walk into the main lobby. Of course, the back of the building is completely redone to overlook the Mississippi River, while there’s also an outdoor patio that oversees both Riverside Park and Pearl Street, downtown.

The initial plan was to build the Center right up to the Mississippi. The mayor at the time, Tim Kabat, vetoed that idea. The price for that plan was around $48 million, though Fahey said it was likely much more because everyone had their wish list items included. 

The scenic view from the Center that was seemingly lost with the veto, but Fahey said what La Crosse has now ended up being just as good.

“It really, once you’re up in that room, gives you the illusion that you’re right on the river, anyway, because of the height there,” he said. “It turned out, I think, fabulous the way it (is). The original plan was to be closer (to the river) but I think the finished product we got is very special.”

Before the open house, city leaders will re-dedicate the Pat Zielke Suite at 3:30 p.m. Zielke was the longest-serving mayor in La Crosse history — 22 years — and was key in bringing the Center to fruition back in 1979.

“Pat’s got a long, long history of being in this town and his fingerprints are all over this building yet,” Fahey said. “And so, if you knew Pat, I think you’d like to be down here for this.”

Host of WIZM's La Crosse Talk PM | University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point graduate | Hometown: Greenville, Wis | Avid noonball basketball player and sand volleyballer in La Crosse

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