Preparing for the Return of In-Person Meetings and Conventions
We are headed into another Milwaukee summer, and I am thrilled to say that it will look much different than this time last year. The thought of returning to weddings, concerts, sporting events and travel has the whole city (and country) buzzing. Since the announcement that the City of Milwaukee mask mandate would be lifted on June 1, the WCD has felt the tangible reality of bringing guests back to our venues and enjoying events again. The day we’ve all been anticipating is finally here – large gatherings are returning to Milwaukee. We have all spent the last 15 months with a vision of what the future of in-person meetings and conventions would look like, and now we can finally begin to plan for these events and bring this vision to life.
Returning to in-person events will be yet another change to our routine, as our “new normal” shifts to a “new normal 2.0.” As we turn the dial a few more notches closer to pre-COVID times, safety remains a top priority for us at the WCD. All our visitors, clients and staff will notice more communication about the cleaning methodologies we have in place. Transparency and diligence are a key component in welcoming guests back.
It was my expectation for the WCD venues to be early adopters of more stringent cleaning protocols and new applications for infectious disease mitigation. In January of this year, the Milwaukee Health Department identified the Wisconsin Center as a primary hub for COVID-19 mass vaccinations. Our initial 30-day contract concluded 125 days later, with over 143,000 doses administered in our building. It was a career highlight for me personally, and I believe will remain a source of deep pride for all who worked the event. In March of this year, the Wisconsin Center was open to our first non-governmental event since the beginning of the pandemic: four consecutive weekends of youth volleyball tournaments in our exhibit hall. Since then, we have hosted several other volleyball events, a youth basketball event, several dance competitions at the Miller High Life Theatre and navigated a reimagined graduation season at the Miller High Life Theatre and UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. Not to mention the highly anticipated Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience will open this July, and it has already sold over 53,000 tickets. This is just the tip of the iceberg of what the WCD has in store.
Over the next few months, I expect to see bookings continue to be confirmed and a much more active calendar taking shape later this year. If the current trends continue, 2022 will be a spectacular year for all venues.
The return of events makes the groundbreaking of the Wisconsin Center expansion even more exciting. At our current size, we’ve had to turn away events due to capacity restrictions or scheduling conflicts. By doubling the size, we’re able to not only solicit larger events, but host multiple events simultaneously. This will be a game changer for Milwaukee. We recently released a “fly through” video that will give you an even better understanding of the magnitude of the new space. All I can say is, WOW.
The expansion will create thousands of jobs during construction and again once opened. The WCD has committed to contracting with at least 25 percent minority-owned businesses, five percent women-owned businesses, and one percent disabled veteran-owned businesses for construction, along with a Residential Preference Program (RPP) mandating at least 40 percent of on-site construction labor hours will be performed by trade workers residing in the city of Milwaukee. Upon opening, the expanded Wisconsin Center is expected to support 2,300 full-time equivalent jobs throughout the state of Wisconsin.
With all of these wonderful events coming back, we’re continuing to hire new team members looking for a rewarding job and who want to help us work toward our vision to Be Bold. Be Proud. Be Experience Obsessed. WCD is committed to an inclusive workforce that pays a living wage with a $15 per hour minimum. Check out the employment section of our website if you or someone you know is interested.
I am thankful that I will soon be able to see hundreds of smiling faces entering our facilities. Milwaukee, it is good to be back.
See you soon,