WIAA State Athletics Meets One-Time Giant Boon for La Crosse Area – WIZM 92.3FM 1410AM
Of all the WIAA state events to host, when it comes to attracting a diverse crowd from all over Wisconsin, athletics may be the best.
“Football is obviously doing very well,” Explore La Crosse’s Jeremiah Burish told WIZM. “Basketball is doing very well. But, man, the track pays a ton. There’s no doubt about it – 3,000 athletes, over 21,000 people over two days.
This is the 126th men’s athletics championship and the 51st women’s event.
The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse has hosted the meet since 1990 and will continue to do so through 2026, after reaching an agreement with the WIAA and Explore La Crosse a few weeks ago.
The projected annual economic impact of the state meet in the La Crosse area is approximately $4 million. The uniqueness of the two-day event, which begins on Friday, allows those who visit to explore the region often.
“They really want to get a taste of what’s here, while they’re here,” Burish said. “And I don’t mean that just in the sense of a restaurant. But, as a flavor of the city and the region.
“Yeah, they do a lot of those little attraction things. I would be lying if I said there was one thing. There’s so much stuff here, so I think they’re just trying to absorb some of it while they have a minute to do so.
It’s these attractions, like Grandad Bluff, and the area’s infrastructure – hotels and restaurants – that play a part in keeping La Crosse something like state.
Burish, who is the director of sports and events, said Explore La Crosse is keeping tabs on what the rest of the state is doing when it comes to hosting events like this.
Facility upgrades could encourage these events to move from city to city. That’s part of what happened to the National Women’s Basketball Tournament a few seasons ago, with the city hosting it at the newly renovated La Crosse Center.
“We are absolutely keeping tabs on that,” Burish said. “There is no doubt about it. Fortunately, UW-La Crosse has built one of the best facilities, truly in the Midwest – with the Veterans Memorial Sports Complex. And now, with their extension to the indoor sports complex that they’re building that will be done this fall, it’s just an improvement on that whole setup.
The new indoor facility has only solidified the WIAA’s decision to keep the state meeting at La Crosse, as it will be used to help house athletes, allow them to warm up and even host some events. inside in case of bad weather.
UW-L hosted an average of 21,000 people in the five years before the pandemic. The tie was canceled in 2020, then reformatted last season when it was a three-day event with no grand final championship and held to 5,000 spectators.
This year it’s back to two days, with each division playing on Friday in separate competitions, then all three divisions hold the championship events on Saturday in what always ends up being a spectacle.