The decision by the Democratic National Committee to host its 2020 national convention at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee next summer is not only big political news for Wisconsin but also big economic news. The convention is expected to pour at least $200 million into Milwaukee, with some of those funds overflowing into parts of the New North.
The convention, which will run July 13-16, needs approximately 15,000 hotel rooms to house the delegates, campaign staffers, political consultants, members of the news media and more, according to convention organizers. Milwaukee has 32 hotels with just under 5,400 rooms — and while math is not my strong suit, it’s clear even to me that convention attendees will be looking outside the city for a place to stay.
That news is music to the ears of tourism officials and hotel owners in our region — especially those close to Interstate 41 or Interstate 43 since they provide easy access to Milwaukee. Convention organizers already have indicated that hotel rooms in Fond du Lac, Oshkosh, Appleton, Sheboygan and Manitowoc will be tapped to help accommodate conference attendees. The demand also could extend to Green Bay, if needed.
With convention attendees and members of foreign and domestic media staying in the region, they will eat at local restaurants, buy gas here and perhaps visit an area attraction or two. It also exposes a new group of visitors to the variety of activities and attractions offered in the region, which could lead to future visits. (As an aside, it will be nice to see photos and videos of Milwaukee and eastern Wisconsin on national TV that will not include snow.)
Beyond hotels and restaurants, both Appleton International Airport in Greenville and Austin Straubel International Airport in Green Bay will see increased traffic as travelers look for another option to reach the convention besides flying into Milwaukee.
For hotels in Oshkosh and Sheboygan, the Democratic National Convention will provide a one-two punch in 2020. Not long after the convention ends, EAA’s AirVenture will get off the ground in Oshkosh, creating a very busy July for area hotels. As for Sheboygan, the county will be on the international stage in late September as the 2020 Ryder Cup comes to the Straits course at Whistling Straits in Haven. The tournament, which attracts crowds larger than the PGA Championship, will keep hotels busy throughout the region.
Whatever your political persuasion, there’s no doubt that Milwaukee’s hosting of the Democratic National Convention will be an economic shot in the arm to eastern Wisconsin.