‘Safe Stop’ route established downtown

By Jessica Schurmann

Assistant Editor

With the murder of La Crosse Technical College student Sara Hougom in her apartment at 721 Division St. on March 26, and a double murder on Sept. 15 of Paul and A.J. Petras in their camera shop at 425 Main St. in La Crosse, Lumen asked Director of Campus Security Dave Pleasants if there is a greater concern for the students who will be walking to the new La Crosse Community Theater, oftentimes at night.

“It is a concern,” he said. “For the most part, La Crosse is a pretty safe community. The goal is to provide preventative opportunities.”

Viterbo University and local La Crosse businesses have teamed up to create a “Safe Stop” designated route for students to take when they travel to the downtown area, particularly to the new La Crosse Community Theater.

Businesses that participate in Safe Stop agree to assist students with directions, provide them with a safe place from danger or the weather as needed, contact help if students are in trouble and display a Safe Stop sign in a visible window of their business, according to the Campus Safety website, http://www.viterbo.edu/safety.

Students will begin commuting to the new theater when the final project is unveiled on Jan. 19, 2013. Located downtown on Front and King Streets, the Performing Arts Center will host a “Red Carpet Premier” the evening of the 19th for both the Community Theater and Viterbo, with musical performances and guest speakers.

The only other off-campus venue Viterbo has is the athletic area for baseball, softball and soccer located on Hwy 16. As the fields are roughly four miles away, students must drive, carpool or bus to the athletic area.

The La Crosse Performing Arts Center will be 1.1 miles away from campus, which allows students to walk if they wish.

“Students routinely walk downtown,” Pleasants told Lumen. The Safe Stop “is an extra precaution for those who do,” he said.

Pleasants sees a very positive side to the off-campus location.

“It’s not a bad thing for students to be seen in the community.” Safety-wise, “this is not different than a student going downtown for coffee,” he said. “We are not anticipating that there will be greater crime flow just because of the new theater.”

Liability does not cause concern for Vice President of Student Development Diane Brimmer.

“Students choosing to attend events as a patron at the La Crosse Performing Arts Center will not be required to fill out liability forms because it is their choice and not a requirement to attend the event,” Brimmer told Lumen.

“Students participating in theatrical events at the La Crosse Performing Arts Center will not be required to fill out liability forms because the La Crosse Performing Arts Center will be considered an extension of the campus for those students.”

The Safe Stop Program was created to protect Viterbo and its students, Brimmer said. “To reduce liability, an institution will frequently work to lessen the risk.”

“Driving is probably the best bet,” Viterbo Theater depatment chair Jeff Stolz told Lumen. In regards to the safety of students as they commute to the theater, “there was a lot of concern about that and rightly so, but larger Universities have had the same distances between buildings.”

Students have already spent time downtown rehearsing and performing three or four shows at the Pump House in previous years, Stolz said. “Next semester is about figuring it all out.”

The Safe Stop program will provide theater-goers and with an option for better-lit streets and local businesses that will be available and willing to look out for them.

The participating businesses include American Family Insurance, Cabin Coffee, City of La Crosse Fire Department, Dahl Automotive, Freedom Valu Center, Pickerman’s Soup and Sandwich, Pla-Mor Lanes, River Rocks Coffee, Stolpa’s Stein Haus, the UPS Store, Z’s Lawn and Landscaping, and VFW Post.

“A preferred route for bikes downtown is also being discussed,” Pleasants said.

The Safe Stop program “shows how the community is willing to support Viterbo,” Pleasants added. “That says a lot about this community.”

“We are really excited for the opportunity to have a mid-size theater,” Stolz said on behalf of the Theater department. Currently, Viterbo’s Black Box Theater is a 100-150 seat space, while the Main Theater holds 1100. The Black Box will be mainly used for student-produced work and smaller shows from now on, Stolz explained.

The La Crosse Community Theater will take the new stage first with “Macbeth,” from Jan. 25 – Feb. 3. Viterbo will put on its first performance, “A Chorus Line,” from April 19-21 and 26-28.

Stolz encourages buying tickets for “Chorus Line” soon, as the tickets are selling well in advance.

“Our goal is to do two to four productions at the La Crosse Performance Center per year,” Stolz added. The productions will be able to run for two weeks, which is longer than the current one-week time frame at Viterbo’s theaters.

“The audiences that come to the Community Theater performances and the audiences that come to the Viterbo performances are different. So this will bring them together,” Stolz said.

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