La Crosse's City Council faced a lengthy agenda at its meeting Thursday night.
The item making the biggest buzz in the community was whether the Loggers will keep playing at Copeland Park.
Loggers' fans weren't looking for a bleacher seat Thursday night. They filled up the council chamber as the City Council discussed the new lease for the baseball team, but they didn't hear much debate.
The council immediately went into closed session, and after more than an hour, tabled the topic until the end of the meeting.
For the past week, attorneys on both sides have been locked up on the issue of who's liable if there's an incident or injury at the park.
When the council reconvened, they amended the agreement striking the word "sole" from the liability clause as the Loggers had requested.
The council then unanimously approved the agreement that will keep the Loggers playing at Copeland Park for the next 10 years.
The Loggers’ future playing at La Crosse's Copeland Park may come down to a single issue tonight at the City Council meeting - liability.
"It's no secret what we're down to here,” team general manager Chris Goodell said of the lease negotiations showdown that has been playing out between La Crosse’s City Council and the Loggers for years. "We're certainly comfortable in taking care of our fair share of responsibility and liability out here, and we'd just like the city of La Crosse to take their fair share."
In fact, the Loggers’ future may come down to a single word. The current lease agreement that the baseball team and city officials continue to fight over names the Loggers as the “sole” party responsible for any liabilities that could take place at the park.
"The City Council obviously represents the taxpayers, and the city has to be very cautious because of its potential risk in liability,” Ald. Doug Happel, District 15, said of the lease negotiations that have centered on the use of the word “sole” in the text for the last few weeks.
Happel added despite ongoing debates about the lease, the two parties have recently come a long way in reaching an agreement.
"We lose sight because we're down to the last moment, the last word or two, but tremendous progress has been made,” Happel said.
Signs of that progress may come to a head at tonight's City Council meeting, where a final agreement on the lease negotiations are expected to go into closed session.
"We need to be careful that a contract that is agreed to protects not only the Loggers but also the city,” Happel said.
While both sides know exactly which words they're fighting for, it's also no secret that both ultimately want to come out of tonight's meeting with a decision that ensures Copeland Park isn't empty of Loggers fans next season.
"The best case scenario would be that tonight whatever language the council feels is appropriate, the Loggers would also feel is appropriate,” Happel said.
"We've had a really good relationship with the city of La Crosse, obviously, we've been here for 11 years under our current agreement,” Goodell said. “We’re hoping we can find that resolution tonight, cap this off and look forward to moving on into the future."