The La Crosse Area Chamber of Commerce is throwing support behind a proposed $49.2 million expansion of the La Crosse Center.
The business group is asking local business owners to put pressure on council members to override Mayor Tim Kabat’s veto last month of an ordinance authorizing public funding of the project.
“This project is too important to our region for the La Crosse Area Chamber of Commerce to remain quiet,” said Vicki Markussen, executive director of the Chamber. “We are speaking up to widen the conversation.”
After the council voted 7-4 to approve the concept, which will extend the convention center over part of Riverside Park, and grant an additional $7.2 million in funding, Kabat issued a rare veto, calling the plan a “big, flat, plain box” that does not honor the city’s history.
Markussen said that’s a common misconception the chamber hopes to address.
“When we talk to individuals they envision this as a solid mass in the park, which is not the case,” she said. “When they see the other visuals for it they react another way. We don’t feel like they’ve seen all the visuals.”
The chamber board said the process the La Crosse Center board followed was “inclusive and exhaustive,” the plan is a “creative diversification of an under-used portion” of the park, and delaying will cost more money and jeopardize the health of the downtown.
The chamber warns that every six months construction is delayed could add another $1 million to the price tag.
The chamber has also joined with other business groups, including Downtown Main Street Inc. and the 7 Rivers Alliance, to provide more information through a new web page.
The project is estimated to have a $12.1 million annual economic impact and bring in an estimated 18,000 to 22,000 additional visitors to La Crosse each year.