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Riverside Park could soon get a facelift

By Pauleen Le, ple@wkbt.com
Published On: May 17 2013 06:25:42 PM CDT
Updated On: May 17 2013 07:14:19 PM CDT
LA CROSSE, Wis. -

Riverside Park may be getting a major facelift.

The multimillion dollar project would make changes to the park's existing band shell and also build a new one.

The band shell has seen a lot of history in its more than 80 years in Riverside Park. After decades of wear and tear, the city says it’s time to update Riverside Park's band shell.

“I'd say its general condition, and I think the community would agree, that it can be a much better showpiece than it is now,” said Gar Amunson of the La Crosse Parks and Recreation Department.

The band shell was originally built in the 1930s. Back then, it was a speaker's platform.

The city is hoping to restore the band shell to its original glory.

“It’s very important to recognize and remember the historical aspects,” said Amunson. “Our roots, where we come from, and remembering that and honoring that.”

However, to restore it, the band shell needs to be taken out of the flood plain and the exact location has yet to be determined.

“(It’s) depending on what our archeological finds determine where a good site would be,” said Amundson.

But under Riverside Park also lies important parts of the city's history.

“All three boats are a strong piece of La Crosse history,” said George Italiano, a researcher at the La Crosse County Historical Society.

Since the late 1850s, the county historical society has records of three boats sinking under what is now Riverside Park.

“We know where they went down, but that was the main current of the river that time,” said Italiano. “How much they slid down and out a little further, we can't say for sure.”

But Italiano said the odds of disrupting the boats are pretty slim.

“I would have to say they'd have to be at least 20 feet down, according to the information at that time,” said Italiano.

And wherever these boats may be, Amunson said the city will do its best not to stir the current.

“We'll be very conscience and responsible of where things are buried, and act accordingly,” said Amunson.

Amunson said the bathroom at the park’s south end is the proposed site for the new band shell, which would require some changes to the look of the park’s entrance.

“The current bathrooms on the south end of Riverside Park, or north of State Street, would be demolished,” said Amunson. “The road would have to be realigned. The entrance road into Riverside, it would be between Front Street and the existing road, and curving around looping back in again in front of Century Link.”

If the plans are approved, Amunson said a temporary soundstage would be installed while all of the changes are being made.

The proposal was presented to the Historical Society Commission Thursday night.

They will review the plans within the next 30 days and meet again with the city later in June.

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