How to move forward with the Riverside Park bandshell restoration project was the topic of discussion at an informational meeting Tuesday afternoon.
In a story we brought you back in October, the Common Council approved over a million dollars in funding to update and restore the bandshell.
The Riverside Park bandshell was built in 1930 and hasn't been renovated or updated in over thirty years. The electrical and overall structural aspects of the bandshell need substantial work. As is, the bandshell is not ADA compliant and so that is just one of the primary goals moving forward.
The bandshell serves as a venue for entertainment that draws thousands every year, but it needs drastic improvements. Steve Carlyon, the director of La Crosse Parks and Recreation said, "We've had two structural engineers. One locally, and one from Madison, take a look at this structure built in the 1930s. The concrete is delaminating, the rebar is exposed, it has water intrusion. Structurally, it's tired, so either we fix it or we lose it."
A bandshell consortium has been formed to help move the project along. They will be the ones to listen to the community input and will be fundraising more money if necessary. Carlyon adds, "This is not about the city telling the people that live in the city what to do. It's about listening and then trying to fit what people are talking about within the realm of how much finances are available."
The project is being studied by River Architects of La Crosse and they presented an initial design for restoration in front of the community this afternoon. Micheal Swinghamer, director for River Architects said, "After the study is complete, we hope to have a design that meets most of the needs, if not all the needs. We'll also look at an overall project estimate and schedule and present that back to the city."
Moving forward, more approval for the restoration project will be needed by the Preservation Commission. Carlyon said, "It needs to keep those elements that keep it historical; integral. And that's where our Historic Preservation Commission gives us guidance; 'Yeah, that's okay; that's not okay; take a look at doing it this way.' We want to work hand in hand with them to ensure we stay true to the idea that it is historical and we want it preserved as it was originally."
The new design is not very different from how the bandshell looks today, but the large concern was that there was no plan or design to address the acoustic concerns. Swinghamer talked about the potential roof by saying, "There's a lot of talk about a canopy; an overhead structure. We're going to go back and take a look at that and see what the possibilities are and bring them back to the community."
The schedule to get things underway is very tight and finding an opening to begin working on the restoration will be tricky. This is because Riverside Park is hosting events and is booked most months. The upside to the whole project will be that the bandshell will finally have a thirty-five foot ramp for handicap accessibility. Making the bandshell ADA compliant would mean that all electronic and information technology must be accessible to people with disabilities.
Informational meetings will continue as the project progresses. The overall hope is to bring a better visual of the new design to the community within the coming weeks. The project will likely be done in phases as the funds become available. There is no set completion date for the restoration, but early estimates show it may take two to three years to be fully updated and finished.