Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Expanded Convention Center Will Be Named For Financial Firm Baird

Robert W. Baird and Co. is the Wisconsin Center naming rights partner.

By - Mar 10th, 2023 12:31 pm
Baird Center rendering. Rendering by tvsdesign and Eppstein Uhen Architects

Baird Center rendering. Rendering by tvsdesign and Eppstein Uhen Architects

Forget the Wisconsin Center. Milwaukee’s convention center will now be known as the Baird Center.

Robert W. Baird and Co. is purchasing the naming rights for the convention center and its $456 million expansion. The Milwaukee-based company operates an independent investment bank and offers financial services to a wide variety of clients. It reports more than $376 billion in assets under management and 5,000 employees across the globe, with its headquarters located in the U.S. Bank Center.

The Wisconsin Center District (WCD) board endorsed the 15-year naming rights agreement Friday after meeting in closed session for more than an hour. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The name change will go into effect as the expansion opens in May 2024, just in time for the Republican National Convention.

“This agreement fits with our ongoing efforts to build Baird’s brand across our global footprint and reflects our longstanding commitment to giving back to the communities where we live and work,” said Baird chairman and CEO Steve Booth in a press release. “The new state-of-the-art convention center will enhance Milwaukee’s growing reputation as a modern, forward-looking city, and we are honored to support and be part of its success.”

The expansion plans call for adding 112,000 square feet of space to the exhibition hall, creating a 300,000-square-foot hall. A rooftop ballroom will have a 2,000-person seating capacity and outdoor terraces. A total of 24 meeting rooms are being added to the building, bringing the total to 52. The expanded facility will have 22 loading docks and a 400-stall indoor parking structure. Operationally, the facility will be able to host two conventions simultaneously. That will allow one show to load in or out while another operates, eliminating “dark” days.

“Since our Board trusted our bold vision and authorized the expansion project in 2020, we knew that a naming rights agreement would follow,” said WCD president and CEO Marty Brooks. “The ideal naming rights partner would be homegrown, have a world-class reputation and, for the greatest possible success, share our core values and commitment to the city of Milwaukee. Baird meets and exceeds those qualifications and will give our convention center, and our city, yet another spectacular reason for visitors to add Milwaukee to their list of not-to-be-missed destinations.”

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. Naming rights agreements have seen the complex called the Midwest Express Center, Midwest Airlines Center, Frontier Airlines Center and Delta Center. Delta paid $500,000 to assume the last year of Frontier’s contract, with the latter having acquired the deal in 2010 when its then-corporate parent, Republic Airways Holdings, merged it with Midwest Airlines.

Baird is no doubt familiar with the financial details of the facility. It helped facilitate the related debt issuance for the district.

The WCD board hired Chris Foy of Impression Sports in 2021 to pursue a naming rights agreement for the facility. Foy, now with Legends Global Partnerships, brokered the agreement with Baird.

A topping-off ceremony for the expansion project is scheduled to take place April 11. The building is expected to be “substantially completed” on March 22, 2024. General contracting is being led by a partnership of Gilbane Building Company and CD Smith. Design is being led by a partnership of tvsdesign and Eppstein Uhen Architects.

The expanded facility will fill two city blocks, running from W. Wisconsin Ave. to W. Kilbourn Ave., and from N. 6th St. to N. Vel R. Phillips Ave. The front door of the facility will be oriented north from W. Wisconsin Ave. to the corner of N. Vel R. Phillips Ave. and W. Kilbourn Ave.

Two other WCD venues are subject to naming rights agreements: the Miller High Life Theatre and UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. The district technically owns Fiserv Forum, but the Milwaukee Bucks are responsible for its naming rights and operations.

November 2022 Construction Photos


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2 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Expanded Convention Center Will Be Named For Financial Firm Baird”

  1. Polaris says:

    Totally cool that it’s been named for an iconic Milwaukee company. (And not something like “Crypto” or “KFC Yum!”!

  2. Polaris says:

    Oh, and just in case this cool drone video of the Wisconsin Center expansion is behind a Journal Sentinel pay wall…

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