Wisconsin Center District Board OKs convention center expansion, increases county hotel tax

MILWAUKEE -- The Wisconsin Center District (WCD) Board approved on Thursday, April 2 a resolution authorizing the District to move forward with the $419.9 million convention center expansion, as well as restructuring of existing debt, increasing the Milwaukee County hotel tax, and extension of the food and beverage tax which is applied to takeaway food not eaten in a restaurant or in convenience stores.

Due to COVID-19, bonds to fund the expansion will only be issued once the Governance Committee is provided updated tax projection analysis and financial package materials from the expansion finance team. The finance team includes representation from Morgan Stanley, Baird, Quarles & Brady, and the State Department of Administration.

Wisconsin Center expansion rendering - Rooftop aerial

At this time, the WCD does not have an updated timeline for the issuance of bonds or groundbreaking for the expansion of the Wisconsin Center.

The expansion will double the square footage of the convention center, create more than 1,150 on-site construction jobs, attract an additional 100,000 visitors to Milwaukee annually, and generate an estimated $12.6 billion in spending over a 30-year period. Renderings are available at BuildingMore.com. Milwaukee-based Eppstein Uhen Architects (EUA) and Atlanta-based tvsdesign designed the new convention venue with the vision to create a space that incorporates industry best practices and connects the Wisconsin Center to the greater Milwaukee community.

Wisconsin Center expansion rendering - Street view, freshwater

The WCD Board also approved an increase to the Milwaukee County hotel tax rate from 2.5 percent to 3 percent, to take effect January 2021. This tax increase applies to hotel room nights so the incremental revenue will be substantially funded by business and leisure travelers.

Wisconsin Center expansion rendering - Wells and Vel R. Phillips entrance