Wisconsin Center expansion groundbreaking; $420M project underway

The Wisconsin Center District (WCD) held a formal groundbreaking event for the Wisconsin Center expansion project on Thursday, Oct. 28.

"This project has been in the works since the original building opened in 1998 and I think we can all proudly see the groundbreaking day has certainly arrived," said Jim Kanter, Wisconsin Center District Board Chairman.

The $420 million Wisconsin Center expansion will increase the exposition hall square footage by 112,000 square feet, totaling 300,000 contiguous square feet, plus 24 additional meeting rooms, a minimum of 400 indoor parking spaces, and a 30,000 square foot fourth-floor ballroom with seating for 2,000 and views of the city.

"By doubling the size of the convention center we will attract events for longer periods of times, they will spend more nights in our hotels, and patronize our businesses," said Marty Brooks, Wisconsin Center District President and CEO. 

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Officials say the project will support at least 2,000 full-time equivalent jobs and $100 million in on- and off-site construction wages during construction. 

"At the heart of the project is a commitment to inclusion," Brooks said.

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.

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

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

"I'd be remiss if I didn't remind everyone that we're actively seeking a naming rights partner for the entire convention center – and hope to engage a partner early on so they can be part of the process; shaping the unique experience we want for guests," Brooks said. 

Wisconsin Center expansion rendering - Rooftop aerial

Wisconsin Center expansion rendering - Rooftop aerial

"The timing of this expansion couldn't be more perfect. With group travel resuming and more and more meetings starting to take place in-person, we're already securing conventions for 2024 and beyond," said Peggy Williams-Smith, VISIT Milwaukee President & CEO. 

"You know what also I'm looking forward to? Welcoming so many more visitors to Milwaukee County. When we think about it, it's not too far from our beautiful airport – it's only about 15 minutes away. And it gives the opportunity for folks visiting this convention center to have the opportunity to enjoy our 14 golf courses or 150 parks that we have throughout Milwaukee County,"  said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley.

Early reports indicated the new building was expected to open in early 2024. Learn more about the Wisconsin Center expansion.

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