At least four Wisconsin cities are pursuing huge projects that will give travelers new reasons to visit. The Wisconsin Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus described it as “an infrastructure boom” during the group’s annual conference this month. Here are quick updates.
Titletown District, Green Bay:
Pro football is why we make our way to Lambeau Field, but now the Green Bay Packers are developing other reasons to visit the area. Under development in Ashwaubenon, west of the stadium, are 35 acres of park, residential and commercial projects. Much will be complete by late summer 2017.
Three anchors for this $130 million investment are:
Bellin Health, developing a sports medicine clinic with an orthopedics specialty. It aims to aid average to professional athletes from around the country, and the 80-person staff includes Dr. Patrick McKenzie, the Packers’ team physician. Services will target injury prevention, treatment and therapy; performance improvement; sports psychology and nutrition.
Press materials add “ultra-high-speed video equipment to analyze athletic movements” and “the best diagnostic equipment available.” So Bellin has the potential to turn the new, 52,000-square-foot site into a medical tourism destination.
Hinterland Brewery, a beer maker known for its creative food menu. Its move from downtown Green Bay will quadruple business size to 25,000 square feet. hinterlandbeer.com, 920-438-8050
Lodge Kohler, a spa, bar, restaurant and 144 rooms/suites whose rates start at $195 (room reservations are already being accepted). Terrace-level accommodations include a private grill for tailgating. Other Kohler Company holdings include the five-diamond American Club resort; “rugged yet refined” is the Titletown hotel goal. lodgekohler.com, 888-456-4537
On 10 of the district’s 35 acres is a year-round, public park with play and exercise spaces. In winter, that means ice skating and snow tubing on a four-lane, 45-foot-high slope that has a warm-up area under it. Warm-weather possibilities for the park range from playground equipment to shuffleboard, outdoor ping-pong to concert and other event space.
The project is spurring interest in additional residential and commercial projects, says Brad Toll, Greater Green Bay Convention and Visitor Bureau president. Consider the $44 million overhaul of historic Hotel Northland downtown, $20 million expansion of the National Railroad Museum, talk to add The Shipyard (a $9 million riverfront ballpark, concert and event venue, just south of downtown) and bring a sandy beachfront and more rides to Bay Beach Amusement Park. packers.com/lambeau-field-titletown-district.html; greenbay.com, 920-494-9507
Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center, Milwaukee:
Construction has begun on the $500 million and 27-acre project, whose borders are Fourth and Sixth streets, Highland and Juneau boulevards. The entertainment district’s centerpiece is a 714,000-square-foot arena for the Milwaukee Bucks, to be completed in time for the team’s 2018 season. It will replace the 30-year-old Bradley Center.
The project adds sleek architectural design to downtown Milwaukee and will include a large public plaza, team training facility and unidentified commercial developments. Details beyond the arena are sketchy, so far, but designer Populous of Kansas City has created sports facilities worldwide. wisconsinesc.com
The Confluence Project, Eau Claire:
Eau Claire, whose downtown is at the confluence of the Eau Claire and Chippewa rivers, continues to position itself as an arts/music destination. Offerings go far beyond the area’s Country Jam USA, an outdoor summer fest that began three decades ago and whose operator in 2015 added Blue Ox Music Festival, for bluegrass to roots music.
Hometown boy Justin Vernon of the Grammy-winning indie folk band Bon Iver leads the effort in other ways. His two-day Eaux Claires Festival in June elevates music and visual to performing arts. He is an owner of a new boutique and music-themed hotel, the Oxbow, where jazz musicians perform. April Base, his recording studio, is a converted veterinarian clinic in nearby Fall Creek.
Ben Richgruber, Eau Claire Arts Center director, says musicians perform every night of the week. That includes the casual Acoustic Café, 505 S. Barstow St., which draws coeds to retirees. theacoustic.com, 715-832-9090
Don’t be surprised to hear light jazz broadcast over loudspeakers while walking outside on evenings downtown. Now voters, through referenda, support the next phase of development, and Ben calls what is happening “the mother of all collaborations,” involving private and public interests and investments.
Plans call for a $45 million Confluence Arts Center with two theaters (1,200 and 400 seats), plus a downtown revamp of the city’s Historic Waterfront District. Haymarket Landing will be a mix of retail/dining/entertainment venues and lodging for University of Wisconsin Eau Claire students with an affinity for the arts. Ben says that might include “an accounting major who plays in the university band” as well as music majors.
The Corridor and The Corners, Brookfield:
Only nine miles separate this suburb and Milwaukee, but “we’re our own destination – a shopping and dining destination with 2,100 hotel rooms,” says Nancy Justman, president of the Brookfield tourism office.
In The Corners, a new development off Interstate 94 at Barker Road, are retail “firsts” for Wisconsin. That includes Portillo’s, a Chicago-based hot dog and Italian beef sandwich restaurant; Arhaus, selling home furniture and furnishings; and the upscale department store Von Maur.
That is in addition to The Shoppes at the Corridor, part of a 66-acre mixed-use development between Bluemound and Calhoun roads. By mid 2017, Nancy says the number of Brookfield restaurants will grow from 150 to 165, and total shops will increase from 227 to 265.
Also in the works for Brookfield is a convention center to accommodate larger groups, perhaps before 2018 ends if a location is secured soon. Project design includes an 18,000-square-foot ballroom, 4,500-square-foot junior ballroom, breakout rooms and attached hotel.
Until then, the biggest convention space is merely 9,000 square feet. Brookfield is both a city and a town in Waukesha County, which bills itself as Wisconsin’s wealthiest county. visitbrookfield.com, 262-789-0220