Riverside bandshell improvements could be coming - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Riverside bandshell improvements could be coming

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La Crosse, WI (WXOW) -

The bandshell is the focal point for thousands of people in Riverside Park every summer as it plays host to a variety of concerts. Now, years of deferred maintenance has taken its toll and the city is looking to make some improvements.

At Thursday's city council meeting, members will vote on whether to release $1.1 million set aside for bandshell improvements currently in the city's capital improvement budget. In doing so, the city will be able to move forward hiring contractors and architects to lay out plans and designs for the bandshell.

The city has been voting to reserve the funds for the bandshell since 2011 and after deciding to forgo a larger project, many believe now is the time for action.

"Initially we had been thinking about a larger scale $4 million large outdoor performance center," Steve Carlyon, the director of the Parks and Rec Department, said. "But after we held off on that, we realized it was time to start thinking about investing in repairs to the current bandshell while preserving its historical significance."

The bandshell was build in 1930 and underwent renovations in 1986. Since then, its suffered through hard winters and thousands of performances and its age is beginning to show.

A user consortium consisting of groups who use the bandshell, such as Moon Tunes, Riverfest, La Crosse Jazz Orchestra, La Crosse Concert band and Rotary Lights has been assisting the city with design concepts.

"The stage needs to be repaired for safety," Abbie Leithold-Gerzema with the La Crosse Concert Band Board of Directors, said. "It's not ADA compliant and the electrical work needs repaired because it's very dangerous."

In addition, the user group would like to add a stage cover to protect performers from the elements and provide better acoustics.

"Thousands of people come to concerts in Riverside Park every week in the summer," Leithold-Gerzema said. "Audiences are asking when are there going to be improvements and I think they're looking for that unfulfilled promise of improvements that haven't happened."

Terry Bauer, the founder of Moon Tunes, said listeners who donate every week are beginning to ask questions.

"We want the city to go ahead and get the ball rolling on this project so that people can see improvements and repairs are being made," he said.

The user group will create a non-profit to solicit private contributions for further improvements. That list includes a stage cover, dressing rooms for performers, stage equipment storage space and replacing the 1986 concrete with matching Winona quarry stone.

"It could be a real gem of the city," Leithold-Gerzema said. "It's one of the most unique concert venues in the Midwest."

Carlyon said if the city council approves releasing the funding, the city will work to enclose the space so it can be worked on over the winter and ready for next summer's concert series.

If the repairs exceed the $1.1 million from the city's capital improvement budget, he said the city will then prioritize what repairs need made the soonest. 

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