State to contribute $5 million to La Crosse Center renovations

Gov. Scott Walker announces investment

State to contribute $5 million to La...

LA CROSSE, Wis. - Gov. Scott Walker is setting aside $5 million in his budget to go toward the La Crosse Center renovations.

The renovation and expansion project is slated to cost $40 million. The La Crosse Center has already been approved for a $35 million loan from the city, and Walker announced the state is covering $5 million, saying it will be a boost to tourism in the state.

The La Crosse Center is a home to many things.

"Where else can you go where you can go watch monster trucks, play darts, get married, have family reunion all under the same roof?" La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat said.

The number of people the center draws for its array of events is a big reason Walker putting money toward the center's renovation.

"We're not in the business of building convention centers, but what we will help is if there's a larger regional impact that helps drive tourism all throughout the state and particularly in the region,” Walker said.

Walker said about a quarter of the center's entertainment ticket sales come from outside the state

"We want to help them grow because if we bring more dollars from Iowa or Minnesota or somewhere, it's not just a benefit to local economy but the state economy as well,” he said.

The center brings about $40 million a year into the local economy, and La Crosse Center board president Brent Smith said the renovation project will only increase that.

"We're going to be able to have bigger events and that also means people staying in La Crosse longer,” Smith said. “The biggest economic impact is when you have people staying overnight, using hotels, restaurants and stores.”

Walker also cited the new hotels downtown as a reason the La Crosse Center renovation project is a good investment.

The La Crosse Center asked the state for $12 million, but Smith says the $5 million will be enough.

"Sure, we would want 12, more is always better in a project like this, but I think the 5 million is very significant,” Smith said. “We're going to be back here about two years, maybe two and a half years with a building done."

Before anything is official, Walker's state budget has to be approved by the Legislature.

The La Crosse Center is finalizing plans for the renovation project this year and will break ground in 2018.

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