Wisconsin Offers Year-Round Meeting Attractions

For groups that have forgotten what it's like to meet in a four-season destination, Wisconsin is an eye-opener

Erin Hills Golf Course

For groups that have forgotten what it's like to meet in a four-season destination, Wisconsin is an eye-opener. From kayaking and dinner cruises in spring and summer to ice-skating in winter, from SummerFest to Oktoberfest, and from Wisconsin Dells to Milwaukee, this heartland state offers great food and hospitality, whatever the forecast.


You Can't Go Wrong With . . .
"Receptions and events at the Harley-Davidson Museum are incredibly popular," says Jeff Baryenbruch, executive sales director of VISIT Milwaukee. Set on a 20-acre campus along the Milwaukee River, the museum can host from 10 to 10,000 guests. "Convention attendees thrill to the roar of motorcycles in the museum. They love opening receptions with great bands on the Harley grounds," he adds, also recommending such venues as Milwaukee Art Museum and Discovery World, each with panoramic views of Lake Michigan.

"They are impressive all year round," he says. "Combining a meeting with one of Milwaukee's summer-long lineup of festivals in the beautiful 75-acre permanent festival park with its great VIP decks on Lake Michigan is also a winning proposition for groups."

In Madison, festivals also rule. Judy Frankel of Visit Madison suggests "matching up with local festival dates, like Taste of Madison and Brat Fest." Wisconsin's capital is a college town, which can mean "tailgate dinner experiences with the UW-Madison Band and 'Bucky Badger' at events."

In Wisconsin Dells, there's the Tommy Bartlett Show, "a classic ski, sky, and stage show that has been thrilling crowds for over 60 years," says Tifani Jones, director of sales for Wisconsin Dells Visitor & Convention Bureau (VCB). Scenic tours and the variety of boat outings are top draws, she adds.


Get Your Beer Here
Milwaukee's brewing scene is booming with the opening of 10 new microbreweries to add to the already successful slate of existing traditional breweries, including MillerCoors, as well as locals Sprecher, Lakefront, and Milwaukee Brewing. "A great brewing scene and entertaining tours are value added in Milwaukee," says Baryenbruch. "Local brewers are banding together to promote each other and the burgeoning scene. For example, we have tasting tours at nanobreweries and microbreweries, which are homages to the state's brewing heritage. A company called Hop Head Tours runs both bike and bus tours in Madison and Milwaukee." Beer aficionados can also check out the Brewhouse Inn & Suites at Pabst Brewery Complex, and visit Captain Pabst's original office along with his splendid restored Pabst Mansion.


The Boutique State
A renaissance is taking shape in Wisconsin's cities, where surviving 1890s-era architecture is being repurposed into striking boutique hotels. Joining the celebrated 307-room Pfister (1893) in recognition of Milwaukee's first Golden Age is the state's first Kimpton property, which opened in June in Milwaukee's downtown Third Ward. The 158-room Kimpton Journeyman, which is also the first hotel to open in the landmarked district, features a meeting room adjacent to its all-weather roof terrace. In April, a 155-room SpringHill Suites opened in a former office building. Elsewhere, in downtown's Pabst Brewery Complex, the 90-room Brewhouse Inn & Suites opened in April 2014. Like La Crosse's Charmant Hotel, the property resides in a repurposed factory (a former Pabst brewery from 1880); its atrium can host receptions for 100 guests.

In addition to these retrofitted properties, a new 220-room Westin Hotel is underway in downtown next to the U.S. Bank Galleria. The Westin is expected to be completed next year.

In Madison, the historic 202-room Edgewater Hotel (1948) has reopened following a $100 million renovation, including a new hotel tower (The Wisconsin Building) that features 45,000 square feet of indoor-outdoor event spaces (including two ballrooms and an outdoor plaza), and four new restaurants. Also in Madison, the state's first AC Hotel will be a 165-room new-build, with a 10th-floor rooftop bar offering spectacular views of Monona Terrace and the capitol.

In Eau Claire, the $21 million renovation of the downtown 112-room Lismore -- a DoubleTree by Hilton hotel and conference center has been completed. The full-service property, which offers 14,000 square feet of flexible event space with complimentary Wi-Fi, will be joined in September by the the 30-room Oxbow Hotel (formerly Green Tree Inn) with meeting space for 70.


New for Groups
In addition to bijoux boutiques, Wisconsin is also enjoying a spate of purpose-built sports and meeting projects. These include Milwaukee's new $500 million downtown sports and entertainment complex -- expected to debut in 2018 just a few blocks from the Wisconsin Center convention complex and major convention hotels -- that will be the home of the Milwaukee Bucks NBA team.

In Madison, the Monona Terrace Community & Convention Center recently added three new exhibitions, including a museum-quality exhibit showcasing Frank Lloyd Wright and the Monona Terrace project, spruced up its carpeting, and added plug-and-play workstations throughout. The venue has a range of meeting spaces, from boardrooms to a 37,000-square-foot exhibition hall. The Alliant Energy Center Campus added the New Holland Pavilions, featuring 290,000 square feet of indoor space to replace the Center's nine agricultural barns. A 111-room Holiday Inn Express & Suites/Madison Center has opened within walking distance. Other major renovations in Madison include the 2015 refresh of the 373-room Madison Concourse Hotel and Governors Club -- one of the city's largest convention hotels with 27,000 square feet of event space.

In Green Bay, the 34-acre Titletown District broke ground in April. The development is expecting a four-diamond property -- the 144-room Lodge Kohler -- an artisanal brewery, and a public plaza, to open next year.

When it opens in downtown Appleton, the new, $27 million Fox Exhibition Center will be managed by the adjacent Radisson Paper Valley Hotel. The center is expected to be up and running by late 2017. The 388-room hotel property -- which has 38,000 square feet of its own meetings space -- will also be receiving a makeover before the center's debut.



Questions or comments? Email [email protected]



This article appears in the August 2016 issue of Successful Meetings.

ESSENTIAL Tool Box
CONVENTION CENTERS & FACILITIES
Alliant Energy Center (100,000 sf of exhibition space); Wisconsin Center (189,000 sf); Wisconsin Exposition Center (200,000 sf); KI Convention Center (80,000 sf of event space after expansion)


ROOM TAX:
Varies by city


READERS RECOMMEND

PINNACLE AWARDS GO TO:

Visit Milwaukee
Kalahari Resort
 Grand Geneva Resort & Spa


The Boutique State
A renaissance is taking shape in Wisconsin's cities, where surviving 1890s-era architecture is being repurposed into striking boutique hotels. Joining the celebrated 307-room Pfister (1893) in recognition of Milwaukee's first Golden Age is the state's first Kimpton property, which opened in June in Milwaukee's downtown Third Ward. The 158-room Kimpton Journeyman, which is also the first hotel to open in the landmarked district, features a meeting room adjacent to its all-weather roof terrace. In April, a 155-room SpringHill Suites opened in a former office building. Elsewhere, in downtown's Pabst Brewery Complex, the 90-room Brewhouse Inn & Suites opened in April 2014. Like La Crosse's Charmant Hotel, the property resides in a repurposed factory (a former Pabst brewery from 1880); its atrium can host receptions for 100 guests.

In addition to these retrofitted properties, a new 220-room Westin Hotel is underway in downtown next to the U.S. Bank Galleria. The Westin is expected to be completed next year.

In Madison, the historic 202-room Edgewater Hotel (1948) has reopened following a $100 million renovation, including a new hotel tower (The Wisconsin Building) that features 45,000 square feet of indoor-outdoor event spaces (including two ballrooms and an outdoor plaza), and four new restaurants. Also in Madison, the state's first AC Hotel will be a 165-room new-build, with a 10th-floor rooftop bar offering spectacular views of Monona Terrace and the capitol.

In Eau Claire, the $21 million renovation of the downtown 112-room Lismore -- a DoubleTree by Hilton hotel and conference center has been completed. The full-service property, which offers 14,000 square feet of flexible event space with complimentary Wi-Fi, will be joined in September by the the 30-room Oxbow Hotel (formerly Green Tree Inn) with meeting space for 70.


New for Groups
In addition to bijoux boutiques, Wisconsin is also enjoying a spate of purpose-built sports and meeting projects. These include Milwaukee's new $500 million downtown sports and entertainment complex -- expected to debut in 2018 just a few blocks from the Wisconsin Center convention complex and major convention hotels -- that will be the home of the Milwaukee Bucks NBA team.

In Madison, the Monona Terrace Community & Convention Center recently added three new exhibitions, including a museum-quality exhibit showcasing Frank Lloyd Wright and the Monona Terrace project, spruced up its carpeting, and added plug-and-play workstations throughout. The venue has a range of meeting spaces, from boardrooms to a 37,000-square-foot exhibition hall. The Alliant Energy Center Campus added the New Holland Pavilions, featuring 290,000 square feet of indoor space to replace the Center's nine agricultural barns. A 111-room Holiday Inn Express & Suites/Madison Center has opened within walking distance. Other major renovations in Madison include the 2015 refresh of the 373-room Madison Concourse Hotel and Governors Club -- one of the city's largest convention hotels with 27,000 square feet of event space.

In Green Bay, the 34-acre Titletown District broke ground in April. The development is expecting a four-diamond property -- the 144-room Lodge Kohler -- an artisanal brewery, and a public plaza, to open next year.

When it opens in downtown Appleton, the new, $27 million Fox Exhibition Center will be managed by the adjacent Radisson Paper Valley Hotel. The center is expected to be up and running by late 2017. The 388-room hotel property -- which has 38,000 square feet of its own meetings space -- will also be receiving a makeover before the center's debut.



Questions or comments? Email [email protected]



This article appears in the August 2016 issue of Successful Meetings.