Boots & Sabers

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1835, 02 Nov 21

Wisconsin Center District breaks ground on money pit

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a taste:

Milwaukee has always struggled to consistently attract convention business, but with this new expansion of the Wisconsin Center, the WCD is hoping to change that dynamic. The expansion will expand the Wisconsin Center to 300,000 square feet of contiguous space. It will also add 24 additional meeting rooms and at least 400 indoor parking spaces. Finally, the WCD will add six loading docks, an executive kitchen, and a ballroom that will seat at least 2,000 people for dinner.


Unfortunately for the WCD, there is very little to support the supposition that the reason that Milwaukee has not been able to attract a substantial number of conventions is because the convention center is too small. The convention center has been expended over the years and the results remain the same. The reason that Milwaukee does not attract many conventions is because it’s Milwaukee.


Downtown Milwaukee is lovely and boasts a handful of fun attractions, but there just isn’t enough there to compete with so many other cities contending for convention business. When you couple the meager attractions with runaway crime, an inhospitable city government, and the long, brutal winters, the WCD has always been overly optimistic about the prospects of turning Milwaukee into a destination city for conventions. Furthermore, nobody is really sure if the pandemic- collapsed convention business will ever fully bounce back. Businesses have found other ways to market their wares, and some may never return to their previous convention spending.


1835, 02 November 2021

1 Comment

  1. Mar

    I agree with most of what you say.
    Milwaukee has to.compete against Las Vegas, which has much more space and it’s Las Vegas. Nasty summers if you don’t like the heat. But you generally can avoid the heat by going inside casino to casino. Plus it’s fair safe around the Strip and Fremont St.but don’t leave those areas.
    Then, you have places in Florida and Texas, which also have large convention centers and offer many more benefits than Milwaukee can offer.
    Finally, there will be fewer conventions. You have Zoom calls, costly travel expenses thanks to Senile Joe and the convention business will suffer everywhere.

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