$420M approved for downtown Convention Center expansion

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The Wisconsin Center District (WCD) Governance Committee announced Thursday, Oct. 8, they unanimously approved a resolution to finance the $420 million convention center expansion project. This is the final approval needed in order to begin the planning phase of the project.

According to a news release, the project will be led by CAA ICON as the owner’s representative, the architecture firms tvsdesign and EUA and the construction team of Gilbane and C.D. Smith, and will support at least 2,000 full-time equivalent jobs and $100 million in on- and off-site construction wages during construction.

Additionally, the plan includes an already-approved 31 percent minority-owned-business clause (25 percent minority, 5 percent women-owned, 1 percent disabled veteran-owned), and 40 percent of on-site construction jobs will be dedicated to the Residents Preference Program for city and county resident-held positions. Once completed, the new convention center is projected to attract an additional 100,000 out-of-state visitors annually, stimulate at least $6.5 billion in total spending in the state over a 30-year period, and generate at least $150 million in incremental state income.

"The Wisconsin Center expansion has been years in the making, and today is an exciting day,” said Marty Brooks, president and CEO of the WCD. “Meetings and convention business acts as the economic foundation for hospitality and tourism in our region. I applaud the WCD Board and Governance Committee for the actions they have taken in the last two years and the trust they have placed in me and our team to lead the Wisconsin Center District toward Building More for the city we love.”

By doubling the square footage of the convention center, the WCD will be able to host multiple, overlapping, and simultaneous events. The facility will emphasize flexible space arrangements which will meet the needs of meeting and event planners locally, nationally, and globally. Increased meeting and convention business will result in greater demand for downtown hotel room night usage, which will increase tax revenue and cause compression, driving visitors to neighboring communities. These visitors will patronize Milwaukee’s restaurants, bars and entertainment venues, boosting support industries.

According to a study by third-party consulting firm, HVS, convention business will see 2019 booking numbers again in 2023, which means having a new facility open and available to book in 2024 will make Milwaukee an even more desirable destination.

An anticipated ground-breaking date will be in late 2021, and the new building is expected to open in early 2024.

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