CHURCH SERVICE: Glenn Walinski, far right, joined country artist Eric Church for a charitable check presentation at Tyson Events Center in 2012. Walinski died on Tuesday. (Facebook)
Glenn Walinski, a beloved manager of multiple venues across the Midwest for over 45 years, died Tuesday (Jan. 2) in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. He was 71.
Walinski suffered a stroke shortly before Thanksgiving and never fully recovered, according to Jim Walczak, his longtime friend and industry colleague. A funeral service was set for Jan. 12 in LaCrosse.
During his lengthy career, Walinski ran the LaCrosse Civic Center and Mary E. Sawyer Auditorium, also in LaCrosse; the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center in Appleton, Wisconsin; and most recently, Tyson Events Center and the Orpheum Theatre in Sioux City, Iowa, before he retired in 2017.
One year later, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics honored Walinski with the group’s Championship Legacy Award, recognizing his key role managing more than a dozen NAIA women’s basketball and volleyball tournaments at Tyson Events Center.
In addition, Walinski was a member of the International Association of Venue Managers and was heavily involved in the Boy Scouts.
Several peers paid tribute to Walinski on his Facebook page, sharing memories of a venue operator they described one of the most well-liked and well-respected people in the business.
“He always smiled, never buckled under pressure,” wrote Melissa Lanzourakis-Joens, who worked with Walinski in Sioux City. “I think of the time Sugarland was moving in and the pit was scaled for 100 and we sold triple that. I can hear (Glenn) saying, “It’s not a problem, we’ll get ‘em in.”
Joan LeMahieu, another longtime facility manager, wrote: “I had the privilege of working with Glenn when he helped our team at Monona Terrace (in Madison, Wisconsin) manage the weeklong opening celebrations in July 1997. His expertise, calm and pragmatic approach; his kindness, energy, grace and terrific sense of humor will never be forgotten.”
Walczak, a veteran arena manager who retired in 2022, worked with Walinski early in his career, which started a long-long-lasting friendship. Their paths first crossed in LaCrosse, where Walczak, a Milwaukee native, played college football in the 1970s. Decades later, they reunited at Fox Cities to help open the complex in 2002.
Walczak was fortunate to catch up again with Walinski last summer to reminisce about the time they spent together and the relationships they forged in the public assembly world. Both participated in IAVM District 3 meetings, a dedicated group of Midwest building managers, many in secondary markets, that met annually from cities such as LaCrosse, Duluth, Minnesota, Battle Creek, Michigan and Fargo, North Dakota.
“We were going to go to dinner and we ended up talking all night and into the wee hours,” Walczak told VenuesNow, referring to their visit in June. “Glenn had the things you don’t find in many people anymore for the most part: honesty, integrity, loyalty and trust. To me, that explains what Glenn was all about.”
Donations to a gofundme set up by Walinski’s children Tyler and Nikki to cover his medical expenses after he suffered the stroke will now be directed to remaining medical expenses and funeral costs.