Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Who Wants To Name the Wisconsin Center?

National group hired to sell naming rights as part of center's expansion plan.

By - Mar 1st, 2021 12:36 pm
Wisconsin Center expansion rendering. Rendering by Eppstein Uhen Architects and tvsdesign.

Wisconsin Center expansion rendering. Rendering by Eppstein Uhen Architects and tvsdesign.

Midwest Express Center. Midwest Airlines Center. Frontier Airlines Center. Delta Center. Wisconsin Center.

The signage at Milwaukee’s convention center has changed plenty of times since the facility opened in 1998 to reflect a series of corporate sponsors and mergers, but since 2013 the building has operated without a sponsor.

With a $420 million expansion on tap, the Wisconsin Center District (WCD) sees an opportunity for revenue on the horizon. The state-controlled entity has retained Denver-based Impression Sports & Entertainment to sell the expanded building’s naming rights.

“Identifying a naming-rights partner at such an early stage in the expansion is critical. We want this sponsor to truly be our partner, not just in name but also through integration in the design components of the project,” said Marty Brooks, WCD president and CEO, in a statement.

Construction on the expansion is expected to begin in early 2022 with work completed in 2024. The existing facility was in the news repeatedly in the past year, despite almost every event being canceled as a result of the pandemic. The small portion of the Democratic National Convention left took place at the facility, the center also played host to the Milwaukee County presidential election recount and now serves as a COVID-19 vaccination center.

Impression Sports will also seek to sell additional sponsorship opportunities for two WCD facilities that have active naming rights deals – The Miller High Life Theatre and UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. The business is owned by Home Team Sports, a division of Fox Sports. It’s sold naming rights to a host of college football bowl games as well as the Memphis convention center and other sports facilities.

“We’re looking forward to working with the WCD team and are confident we will find the perfect partner,” said Impression Sports president Chris Foy. “The $420 million expansion of the convention center creates an ideal time for a company to secure the naming rights.”

The expansion plans call for adding 112,000 square feet of space to the exhibition hall, creating a 300,000-square-foot hall. A ballroom would be included in the expansion with a minimum of 30,000 square feet of space and a seating capacity of at least 2,000. A total of 24 meeting rooms would be added to the building. With these changes the building could host two major conventions at the same time.

Delta paid $500,000 to assume the last year of Frontier’s contract, with the latter originally acquiring the deal in 2010 when its then-corporate parent, Republic Airways Holdings, merged it with Midwest Airlines.

The MolsonCoors Miller High Life Theatre naming rights deal runs through 2022 and the Panther Arena deal through 2024.

In addition to the Milwaukee deal, the Impression Sports website lists a number of other naming rights opportunities it is selling: the New Orleans Pelicans NBA jersey patch, University of Colorado football stadium, Auburn Arena and title sponsorships on ESPN football and basketball properties.

The Milwaukee Bucks, independent of Impression Sports, are shopping their NBA jersey patch space after a deal with Harley-Davidson expired. The team is expected to fetch over $10 million annually from the space.


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