On Friday, the Wisconsin Center District board of directors presented expansion recommendations, a benchmarking analysis and conceptual renderings for Milwaukee's Wisconsin Center. The details of the proposed construction were outlined in a report from architectural firm Populous, based on reports from Crossroads Consulting. Downtown Milwaukee's WCD owns and operates the convention facility, the Miller High Life Theatre and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Panther Arena.
Recommendations for the expansion of the convention center include an additional 112,000 square feet of exhibit space for a total of 300,000 square feet of contiguous space in the exhibit hall; 15,000 to 25,000 square feet of new ballroom space for a total of 52,500 to 62,500 square feet of column-free space; and 30,000 to 35,000 square feet or added meeting space, which would bring the total to 69,640 to 74,640 square feet. Overall, plans call for an expansion of between 157,000 and 172,000 square feet, which would result in 422,800 to 437,800 square feet of leasable space at the facility.
The cost of the project is estimated to be between $247 million and $277 million. An additional 4 percent per year would be added beyond 2019, according to the report. The Wisconsin Center District still needs to develop and approve a plan to finance the expansion.
The report from Crossroads Consulting advises pursuing the expansion only with a solid plan in place that would ensure prior or simultaneous development of new, nearby convention-quality hotel rooms.
"As we carefully take next steps in realizing the recommendations of the Crossroads feasibility study," said Marty Brooks, CEO of the WCD, "we are excited at the opportunity to continue exploring options that will enhance the profile of the city of Milwaukee as a top-tier destination for visitors and conventions alike."
Wisconsin Center expansion efforts began in 2017 with an operational review of the Wisconsin Center District, followed by a full assessment by Crossroads. The findings and recommendations from that report led to the more in-depth benchmarking and feasibility study that just wrapped up.