Harry J. Olson and Southside Senior Centers to change locations?

Two of La Crosse’s senior centers may soon have to move locations.

City officials are currently discussing whether it’s worth it to invest the money into repairs or if moving the programs to newer facilities would be a better cost-saving measure.

The two facilities, the Harry J. Olson senior center on the city’s north side and the Southside Senior Center, were both built in the late 1800s.

These centers provide many different activities for hundreds of seniors.

Both sides agree that senior programing is important to keep in the community, but for at least one facility, it’s all about the location.

On any given day, Harry J. Olson Senior Center Board of Directors member Andrea Richmond said it’s the hot spot to find seniors in our community.


“People come here to have that camaraderie,” said Richmond. “It’s good conversation to be able to talk to others.”

Richmond said the center’s roughly 225 members use the facility every day for a place to get a good meal, to play a game of cards and even to get some exercise.

She said the thought of switching locations just isn’t an option.

“I think it’s pretty centrally located,” said Richmond. “So my hope is to not tear it down, not have the seniors move somewhere else (because) they’re very comfortable here.”

“Structurally, they’re in reasonably good shape, but it’s the window replacement, it’s the furnaces, the boilers, the roofs, those kinds of things that really need attention,” said Dale Hexom, La Crosse Public Works director.

Hexom said the city spends hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to maintain each of these facilities.

Moving the programs to the Northside Policing Center, the Black River Beach Neighborhood Center, or the Southside Neighborhood Center would be a better use of the city’s money.

“Budgets are tighter and we’re looking at every available opportunity to reduce the city’s operating costs, and/or make sure that the buildings or facility and programs that are operating are being done so cost effectively and that we’re not duplicating services,” said Hexom.

Final decisions won’t be made for a couple of months.

Until then, Richmond hopes the city takes into consideration who the centers are benefiting.

“I think the benefits outweigh the costs for the city of what is being used here,” said Richmond. “So I think they need to take a hard look at that and not displace people.”

The president of the Southside Senior Center in La Crosse said it’s a little too soon to say what would be best for the community.

The Southside Senior Center is located relatively close to the Southside Neighborhood Center, but some of the concerns include having enough space and amenities to house the senior programing.

City officials will likely make a decision in February.

They’ll be using input from a community survey and information gathered from a cost analysis study.