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Parks director wants to show off La Crosse Center to community, as board looks to expand bar, catering services



The La Crosse Center building underwent a $40 million expansion and renovation two years ago to bring in more business. Now, the center is planning to expand its staff to work on more events.

At a Center Board meeting Tuesday, La Crosse Parks, Recreation and Forestry director Jay Odegaard said he wants to show the community that the La Crosse Center brings in many events. That includes this week’s Marbleseed Organic Farming Conference — previously known as the Midwest Organic Farming Conference — which is one of he biggest events that happens at the Center.

“For me, what’s very important is selling this building to the community and showing the community what this building is and does,” Odegaard said.

A common complaint heard in the community is that the Center doesn’t bring in enough concerts or other entertainment events.

The Center also is looking at upgrades for equipment that has been used since before the latest expansion, such as new ballroom carpeting and replacement of sound equipment.

Center staffers say events at the building continue to grow, as the convention business slowly recovers from the cancellations that occurred during the COVID pandemic.

The board also said it is making plans to hire an assistant food and beverage manager to help increase the catering staff.

Odegaard told the board that this kind of funding is necessary to improve business.

“I really feel this is one of those situations where you have to spend money to make money,” Odegaard said. “I’m confident that we’ll cover the expense for sure, and then some.”

Odegaard added that the building staff needs to be ready to handle parties and dinners if other caterers are not available.

“When other caterers turn down events, we kind of get stuck with them, for lack of a better term,” Odegaard said. “Instead of being the La Crosse Center catering that comes in and doesn’t seem as professional, we want to make sure that we’re right there.”

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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