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Wisconsin Center: Inside Wisconsin's biggest construction project

By Charles Benson,


Milwaukee's expanded convention center is already bringing in business even though it's still about a year away from completion.

TMJ4's Charles Benson toured the $456 million project to see the special features, including the 'King of the World' corner.

It's the biggest construction project in the state right now and it's on full display in downtown Milwaukee.

TMJ4's Charles Benson toured the $456 million dollar project to see the special features, including the 'King of the World' corner.

"We're going to see an improvement of 100,000+ [additional people] a year coming to Milwaukee because of the convention center expansion, and what it's going to do to Westown and drive people into the Deer District could be a people magnet,” said Marty Brooks, President and CEO of the Wisconsin Center District.

Brooks sees the Wisconsin Center expansion project grow and change every day. He was our tour guide for the project.

He says it's not just about doubling the size of the convention space - it's about the 24 new meeting rooms, 400 indoor parking spaces, and a rooftop ballroom with dining facilities and spectacular views of the city.

Wisconsin Center
Main entrance street-level view of the northeast corner

“People don't attend conventions like they used to. It used to be, you came to a convention, you stayed in your general session, or the exhibition space the entire day," Brooks said. "Now, people want to have time to network, have pop-up meetings with people, check in with their offices. Technology has changed so much in the convention business."

It's also about meeting the needs of convention visitors.

"We're going to have a significant number of gender-neutral restrooms, not with one stall, to be able to accommodate large groups of people so that we can address the different clientele to come to a convention center," said Brooks.


Right now, there are a lot of concrete and steel beams, but there's a lot going on with deadlines approaching.

"I'm often asked, 'Are you going to be ready for the Republican National Convention?' They come July 2 of 2024. Our grand opening events are going to be in the middle of May 2024," said Brooks. "We'll be finished on time and be able to make sure that all the systems have been commissioned, and our staff properly trained.”

That includes the completion of the 'King of the World' corner on the top floor overlooking the city where Titanic movie fans and visitors can take photos.

"We think that's going to be a very prominent Instagram moment," said Brooks.

The expected price tag is $456 million, which is $36 million more than originally proposed due to higher construction costs. Brooks tells me he expects to finish at or below that price.

Wisconsin Center
Rooftop deck outside of new ballroom

Funding comes from a county hotel sales tax and a food and beverage tax at restaurants.

The Wisconsin Center says the expansion construction includes local businesses, with construction being done by 25% of minority-owned businesses, including women and disabled veteran-owned businesses.

The district is pursuing LEED silver certification - a global sustainability standard. The building choices include a solar roof. A 320,000-gallon underground stormwater management system and 90% of the steel used is made of recycled materials from Arkansas.

Brooks says the rooftop ballroom design helped set the expansion project apart from others.

"Putting the ballroom up here gives us a space, it's a dedicated ballroom and it can be broken into seven smaller rooms to be used for meetings or small private functions."

The Wisconsin Center announced last week a 15-year naming rights deal with the long-time Milwaukee-based financial company Baird.

Gala Giveaway: Wisconsin Center to honor nonprofit at new rooftop ballroom

Gala Giveaway: Wisconsin Center to honor nonprofit at new rooftop ballroom

MILWAUKEE — You could win a gala for your nonprofit at the Wisconsin Center!

The Wisconsin Center recently announced its first annual Gala Giveaway where one Wisconsin 501(c)(3) organization will be awarded a complimentary 2024 gala. The Gala Giveaway will be held in Wisconsin Center's new rooftop ballroom and feature a three-course meal and four bottles of wine (two red, two white) per table for up to 500 guests.

According to the Wisconsin Center, the gala package also includes pre-function space for registration and silent auction, full use of sweeping rooftop terraces, and standard tables, chairs, linens, and place settings. You will also receive a complimentary service change, as well as a $15,000 stipend for audio-visual services.

Staff with the Wisconsin Center District will volunteer 40 hours to the winning organization's cause.

The event would be hosted in 2024. Applications are due March 31. For more information and to apply, visit

The Wisconsin Center began its $456 million expansion last spring with its first large concrete pour. The expansion is nearly doubling the size of the Wisconsin Center. The new rooftop ballroom is set to open in May of 2024.

Click here to see renderings and details on the project from the Wisconsin Center District.

Correction: This article previously stated there would an improvement of $100,000 a year. It should be an additional 100,000 people, not dollars. The change has been made and you should see it reflected above.

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