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UW-La Crosse alumni urging replacement of Cowley Hall to complete science center



There’s a new campaign to get the Prairie Springs Science Center at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse completed. 

FILE PHOTO: Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (right) speaks to reporters in Cowley Hall at UW-La Crosse, along side Wisconsin state Sen. Brad Pfaff (left) and Administration Sec. Kathy Blumenfeld on March 2, 2023. (PHOTO: Brad Williams)

The campus alumni association is asking UW-L graduates, who still live in Wisconsin, to lobby the state Legislature to approve a second phase of the project. 

During an online program Wednesday, UW-L Chancellor Joe Gow argued for replacement of Cowley Science Hall, partly because the building is 60 years old and videos taken this week proves, again, that it leaks.

‘Those of us who were on campus this morning saw that rain, and I’m glad that it was recorded, and you get to see how rundown that building is,” Gow said.

The state building commission has turned down funding for all new UW System buildings over the last five years, which encompasses Tony Evers’ tenure as Wisconsin’s governor.

The first phase of the Prairie Springs Science Center opened in 2018, after it was approved under a Republican-controlled Legislature and then-Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

Back in the 2019 capital budget, under Evers, the Phase II price tag was $83 million. Now, the cost has more than doubled to an estimated $180 million.

Wednesday’s campaign included videos featuring UW-L graduates out in the workforce, like Kevin Miller, who’s a science expert for Kwik Trip.

“The research labs were fairly cramped, very small equipment,” Miller recalled about Cowley in one video. “We made do with what we had. We didn’t have much of a budget, we just had to make it work.’

The alumni association quotes a UW-L parent, who recently visited Cowley Hall, and her reaction to the building was “YUCK.”

A little over a year ago, former Republican Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, who was serving as interim UW System President at the time, spoke repeatedly about getting the second phase of the Prairie Springs project complete.

“You take a look at the buildings we have and some of them are beautiful, but some are crap,” Thompson said at the time. “Now is the time to invest in our university system. When you have an old building that when it rains you need to pull up your pant legs in order to get through because it floods so much, it’s not a proper place for students and faculty and it sends a bad image.”

It’s not certain whether the university would try to honor chemistry professor Milford Cowley in another way, if Cowley Hall is torn down. Gow says the new center is called Prairie Springs, because that was the name chosen by a trust which donated $2 million to the project.

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. Charming

    April 19, 2023 at 10:16 pm

    There’s Pfaff again. Always up for a photo op. How desperate. How comical.

    Here is one alum who believes the $90 million expense is not needed. Use it to cut tuition instead.

  2. Walden

    April 19, 2023 at 11:25 pm

    Good grief. Keep the $90 million and use it to reduce tuition.

    A second science building isnt needed any more than a 3rd phys ed building was needed. Ridiculous and wasteful.

    An alum

    • Lee Summers

      April 20, 2023 at 6:01 pm

      Definitely IS needed. As all universities are vying for students, it is embarrassing to have a science building so markedly behind the times. We are losing students to other institutions while the Cowley is stuck in the 60’s and leaking away!!

  3. Glenn Mueller

    April 22, 2023 at 7:59 am

    As a UW-L grad who used Cowley Hall 50 years ago if you can get the money from Srate and Private investments full speed ahead!

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