Expanding Connectivity and Culture Through Intentional Designs of the La Crosse Center

Posted By: Kevin Bills Blog,

Exterior of the LaCrosse Center convention center

Written by Kevin Bills, AIA, ISG

engineering discipline structural systems highlighted

Downtown La Crosse offers a variety of culture and exciting opportunities in a unique setting. Surrounded by stunning bluffs and the Mississippi River, the city welcomes visitors with scenic views, local shopping and dining, hotels, vibrant entertainment options, and a lively nightlife.

In the heart of downtown along the Mississippi River sits the La Crosse Center; home to numerous events and public gatherings, bringing new guests to the community every day. Over the past 40 years, the La Crosse Center has been a major economic driver for the city serving as a space for conventions, weddings, meetings, trade shows, concerts, and sporting events. 

Visualizing the Future 

In 2012, the City began to plan for a major renovation and expansion of the Center with goals to increase revenue and rental opportunities within the space. Local architecture and engineering firm, ISG, was enlisted in 2017 to design a new space that would fully capture the La Crosse Center’s potential, while reflecting the spirit, culture, and scenic attributes of its surroundings. 

Connecting with the La Crosse community was an important step in establishing the needs, wants, and potential of the La Crosse Center. Through a highly interactive public engagement process, ISG collaborated with different user groups to determine how to maximize the design potential of the space and enhance the user experience. A facility assessment of the existing building helped inform the development of numerous concepts focused on increasing connectivity, adding space, highlighting outside views, improving the plaza entrance, and elevating the overall experience for the end user. This iterative design process provided the La Crosse Center with options on how to best move forward with the renovation.

ISG’s visualization team developed 3D renderings and animations to showcase how expansion and renovation efforts would transform the existing spaces. Through state-of-the-art visualizations, ISG unveiled sequencing to help stakeholders see how the project was going to progress through each phase of the renovation and into completion. The visualizations also allowed the community and future guests to virtually experience the planned event and gathering spaces firsthand. 

Bringing the Outside Elements In

LaCrosse Center entryThe La Crosse Center building stands original on its own, yet the design improvements intentionally weave in elements of the surrounding natural environment. Interior elements mirror the Mississippi River, including shades of blue and grey integrated within the wood and the suggestion of currents within the carpet patterns. Glazing and glass walls reflect off surfaces, mimicking sunlight reflecting off the water, and a new lighting design and public art offer visual interest throughout the space.  

Views of the Mississippi River are intergrated into the design.A new entry plaza was designed to increase pedestrian connectivity and accessibility and provide an alternative outdoor gathering space. ISG redesigned the building’s atrium, adding more space for ticketing, concessions, and merchandising. Floor to ceiling glass walls were installed around the atrium and throughout the center, allowing natural light to fill the space and offer views of the river and downtown La Crosse.  A new rooftop terrace was added, bringing a new and refreshing space for outdoor events to be held and offers guests views of the Mississippi River and the historic downtown, giving the Center a competitive advantage due to the unique views you can’t get anywhere else.  

ISG expanded the ballroom to make the space more flexible. The large 900-person ballroom can be split into three separate ballrooms, maximizing space usage and potential rental opportunities. The 7,000-seat arena was also revamped and modernized with a new sound system and arena seating.

Raising the Value 

The renovation and expansion of the La Crosse Center has helped bring multitudes of people back to historic downtown La Crosse at a time when it was needed most, raising the value and economic health of this downtown core. Areas of the facility that once were single functions can now be used simultaneously, allowing for more weddings, tournaments, conferences, and cultural events.  This increase in high quality spaces attracts new and old visitors to the La Crosse Center, driving revenue to the City and adding to a vibrant, historic downtown.  

About the Guest Blogger

ISG logoKevin Bills, AIA, is the Education Business Unit Leader for ISG. With experience serving the education market on facility planning, facility assessments and more, Kevin is driven by the satisfaction of helping clients realize their vision and improving communities. As a multi-disciplinary firm that is 100% owned by employees, ISG fosters strong collaboration across architecture, engineering, environmental, and planning disciplines—providing clients a diverse knowledge base, high level of creativity, and broad perspective. 

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