Monday, May 27, 2024

Baird Center expansion ushers in new era of convention business

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MILWAUKEE — With the ceremonial cut of a ribbon Thursday, Milwaukee city leaders officially completed the Baird Center’s massive expansion.


What You Need To Know

  • The project, which doubled the size of the convention center, has been under construction since October 2021
  • The Wisconsin Center District Board voted to approve the project in April 2020, at the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • The Baird Center will host an Open House for the public on May 18
  • Williams-Smith said convention business leads have more than doubled each year since the expansion was announced

The project, which doubled the size of the convention center, has been under construction since Oct. 2021. The expansion brings the exhibition space to 300,000 square feet, and has added new ballrooms, convention space, and an outdoor “Sky View Terrace”.

Jim Kanter is Board Chairman of the Wisconsin Center District, which operates Baird Center. Kanter said he believes the new convention center space will help to raise Milwaukee’s profile nationally.

“The city itself has so many good things to offer. When you put them into a building that is state-of-the-art from a security standpoint, a health standpoint and technology, everything that has been included here, when you bring them into this city, it is hard to get people not to come back here,” said Kanter.

The Wisconsin Center District Board voted to approve the project in April 2020, at the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. While Kanter said it was a time of uncertainty, he believes deciding to move forward with the expansion despite the pandemic proved to be important for keeping the project on track.

Visit Milwaukee CEO Peggy Williams-Smith said her team has been working to sell perspective convention and event hosts on Baird Center since the expansion was announced. With the project now complete and the size of the venue drastically enlarged from the original structure built in 1998, Williams-Smith believes it affords many new opportunities.

“300,000 square feet of exhibit space has put us into a different tier in terms of competition. We couldn’t bid on a lot of the business because we didn’t have enough exhibit space,” said Williams-Smith, “Even if someone isn’t going to use all of it, they want to know they have it available at their disposal.”

Williams-Smith said convention business leads have more than doubled each year since the expansion was announced.

The Baird Center will host an open house for the public on May 18. More information about the event is available here

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