City plans to hire a private company to manage the La Crosse center | Government and politics


The city of La Crosse is considering bringing in a private company to run the La Crosse Center, according to Mayor Mitch Reynolds — if such an arrangement would be financially beneficial.

With La Crosse Center’s $42 million expansion completed last year and longtime center director Art Fahey slated to retire this year, Reynolds said the time is right. to explore the options.

“It’s not that we’re suggesting the center hasn’t been run well, because it really is,” Reynolds told reporters on Friday. “It’s just that now we’re in a whole new world of a significantly expanded La Crosse center, we want to take a look and see if we can do better.”

Mitch Reynolds, Mayor of La Crosse

Peter Thomson, La Crosse Tribune

This idea is still in its infancy and has not yet come to fruition and will begin by sending out requests for expressions of interest to potential companies, which have not yet been sent.

Reynolds said he doesn’t know if “the interest exists,” but he anticipates there is.

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The city would still retain ownership of the La Crosse Center under this new plan, and Reynolds anticipates little change to its operations.

He told La Crosse County Council on Monday that putting in place protections for current employees at the La Crosse Center was “non-negotiable” if a private company took over management, and for now, he sees that the council of the center of La Crosse would act as it currently does. .

Brent Smith, longtime chairman of the La Crosse center’s board of directors, said it was too early for him to pass judgment on the move.

“It would be hard for me, quite frankly, right now to tell you the pros and cons, because I just don’t know enough about it,” Smith said, saying he didn’t want to ” pre-judge” the idea.

Smith said there had been talk of going private before, but it never got to that level.

The center’s board and La Crosse Common Council were told the city was exploring that option about a week and a half ago, Reynolds said.

The move would be similar to when the city handed management of the Forest Hills golf course over to KemperSports more than 10 years ago, Smith and Reynolds said.

Reynolds said the city is also considering models that other convention centers have followed.

If companies showed interest, the city would then issue a request for proposals, which would provide more details on what it might cost and how exactly it would work.

But Reynolds said if there doesn’t appear to be any financial or other benefit to the community, it’s not worth pursuing.

“If there’s no tax benefit, there’s no point in doing this,” he said. “It’s not privatization for privatization’s sake.”

As for timing, Reynolds said he hopes to have something planned — whether it’s a private company or another city-employed manager — by the time Fahey retires, which could be this summer, Reynolds said.

“If we do this, I would like there to be a smooth transition from the remarkable management of Art Fahey to whatever comes next,” Reynolds said, adding that he would like Fahey to be the “handful of main” between its predecessor.

Any decision and contract between a private company should have the approval of the Municipal Council of La Crosse.

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