Building visitors

New venues in the New North expected to draw­ — and awe — guests

Posted on May 1, 2017 :: Tourism/Resorts
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Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

With summer just around the corner, construction is underway on many New North-area venues expected to draw more visitors and enhance the region’s tourism industry.

The new projects are designed to increase capacity for, or add, new attractions, to make space for new conferences and conventions and to give visitors more options for a special home-away-from-home visit.

Here’s a look at just a few of them:

Lodge Kohler

Lodge Kohler in Green Bay is expected to welcome guests to the Packers training camp in July and is planning a number of special packages based on the NFL season, says Dilan Van Ryn, general manager.

“We’ll be open for all the training camp, preseason, family night and regular season games,” Van Ryn says. “But we really are aiming to have Lodge Kohler be a place that’s always full of activity and buzz.”

A hard-hat tour of the 110,000-square-foot property in early April showed construction, led by Mortenson of Green Bay, was about 80 percent complete. The Lodge includes the Kohler Waters Spa, the fifth-floor Taverne in the Sky and the Leaps & Bounds Café, which has an outdoor terrace.

Van Ryn says Lodge Kohler will add a four-diamond hotel experience to the Green Bay area and complement the Green Bay Packers’ Titletown District, a commercial, residential and park development that is creating a year-round attraction around Lambeau Field.

“We’re really looking forward to enhancing not only the sports fan experience, but all of our guests’ experiences,” Van Ryn says. “Being located right in the Titletown District, we’re right in the heart of the action.”

Lodge Kohler is accepting guest bookings at lodgekohler.com.

Fox Cities Expo Center

Construction on the new Fox Cities Exhibition Center, which will be managed by the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel, led by Miron Construction, is expected to wrap up in late 2017.

When completed, the center will provide the region with about 30,000 square feet of exhibition space and another 10,000 square feet of pre-function space in an area overlooking Jones Park, says Pam Seidl, executive director of the Fox Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Two conventions have already booked for 2018: In late January, the Pierce National Sales Conference will be held at the center, and in March 2018, it will host the Wisconsin Governor’s Conference on Tourism, Seidl says.

“There are a number more interested, but of course a lot of groups want to get a feel for a facility first,” Seidl says. “So we’re planning on doing some hard-hat tours for meeting planners this summer.”

While the Radisson Paper Valley has always had a lot of banquet and meeting breakout areas, the exhibition center will bring the region the additional space needed for those groups that want to hold trade shows, she says. You can watch the construction progress on a live web cam feed at fcexhibitioncenter.com.

Elsewhere around the Fox Cities, a number of hotels are undergoing or will undergo renovations and upgrades, including the Riverwalk Hotel in downtown Neenah, the CopperLeaf Boutique Hotel in Appleton, the Best Western Premier Bridgewood Resort Hotel in Neenah, and the Holiday Inn in Appleton. The Radisson Paper Valley expects to renovate and complete the rooms in time for the opening of the exhibition center.

The FCCVB also has its sights set on the development of a new indoor sports facility that would include hard court space and ice, creating both a local and tourist attraction.

Bucks D-League Arena

In February, Oshkosh was chosen to host the yet-to-be-named Bucks D-League team, giving the region another sports attraction.

The arena, being built by Bayland Buildings Inc. of Green Bay, will seat 3,500 for basketball games and 4,600 for other events like concerts.

Site work on the 79,300-square-foot facility has started, with footings and foundations being poured in April, says Matt Ritter, project executive for Bayland. Substantial completion is set for November.

A UW-Extension economic impact analysis showed that even at half capacity, basketball tournaments at the arena would bring in at least $525,000 of new money per season. Additionally, the Bucks will have a local staff, and the arena will support about 20 new positions in the region. To learn more about season tickets, visit nba.com/bucks/dleague.

The arena also supports the city’s need for more athletic court space, allowing the Oshkosh Convention & Visitors Bureau to bid on sports tournaments like volleyball, wrestling and gymnastics, says Justin DeJager, marketing manager for the Oshkosh CVB. That will bring in even more tourism dollars and provide a year-round entertainment venue for local University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh students.

The project is located within the Sawdust District, a redevelopment vision for the neighborhood that includes a potential restoration of the former Pioneer Resort property, says Jason White, CEO of the Greater Oshkosh Economic Development Corp.

The Pioneer Resort and Marina had been a shining example of entertainment in the region that included a marina, a banquet space, shops, restaurants, walking trails, pools and the Valley Queen, a riverboat tour, says Audra Hoy, director of business and economic development for GOEDC.

“People view it as a real jewel along Lake Winnebago and the Fox River, but I think the challenge is we’re not the same community as we were then,” White says. A local developer is investigating the viability of restoring the Pioneer Inn and how it might fit in with the new Sawdust District, which also includes the arena, an entertainment district and an office park.

A restored Pioneer would help meet the city’s need for more hotel lodging, especially in an area that could see as much as $100 million in new investment over the next decade, White says.

While there have been a number of developments in downtown, “many of those investments have occurred north of the Fox River, and the southern part of the downtown has continued to deteriorate in a lot of ways,” White says. “This is really kind of the first major-league investment that is now occurring on the south side of the Fox River, which is really needed to create balance and opportunity for the downtown as a whole.”