Mission Statement
Economic Impact
Green Practices
The Future
Financial Information

The Wisconsin Center District (WCD) is a government body created under Wisconsin State Statute in 1994 to fund, build and operate the Midwest Express Center (now Wisconsin Center) in downtown Milwaukee, and continue operating the existing venues now called the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena and Milwaukee Theatre.

In 2015, under a new State Statute, the Wisconsin Center District was authorized to issue bonds for a new basketball arena for the Milwaukee Bucks, and will oversee that facility, the demolition of the BMO Harris Bank Bradley Center and, in the future, the operations of the Marcus Center for Performing Arts.

Not a unit of state, county or city government, WCD is instead a semi-autonomous municipality called a "district," meaning its leaders are appointed by elected officials, and it can issue bonds and collect taxes within strict limits established by statute.

Mission Statement
The mission of the Wisconsin Center District: to maintain, and continuously build, our professional reputation in the convention, entertainment and sporting events industry on all levels, both locally and nationally; to present first class facilities in the twenty-first century; to provide the most effective use of space for our clients by utilizing the collective talents of all Wisconsin Center District employees; and to create and sustain jobs, income, and prosperity in the Greater Milwaukee community.

Under the new statute and bylaws, WCD is governed by an unpaid, seventeen-member Board of Directors appointed by the Governor, Milwaukee County Executive, City of Milwaukee Mayor and City of Milwaukee Common Council President. The current Wisconsin Center District Board of Directors consists of:

Mr. Scott Neitzel, Wisconsin Secretary of Administration, Chairman

Mr. Jason Allen, Foley & Lardner
Representative Peter Barca, Wisconsin State Assembly Minority Leader
Alderman Robert Bauman, City of Milwaukee
Mr. Joel Brennan, Discovery World
Alderwoman Milele Coggs, City of Milwaukee
Mayor Kathy Ehley, City of Wauwatosa
Senator Scott Fitzgerald, Wisconsin State Senate Majority Leader
Alderman Ashanti Hamilton, City of Milwaukee Common Council President
Mr. James C. Kaminski, Kaminski Consultants
Mr. James Kanter, MillerCoors
Ms. Rebeca Lopez, Godfrey & Kahn
Mr. Stephen H. Marcus, Marcus Corp.
Mr. Martin Matson, City of Milwaukee Comptroller
Mr. Jeff Sherman, OnMilwaukee.com
Senator Jennifer Shilling, Wisconsin State Senate Minority Leader
Representative Robin Vos, Wisconsin State Assembly Speaker

Mr. Russell Staerkel, President & CEO

WCD receives no property tax money or Federal, State or local subsidy. Its operations are funded by operating revenues. Special sales taxes on hotel rooms, on prepared food and drinks sold in restaurants and taverns, and on car rentals repay a $185 million bond issue that funded the Midwest Express Center project, and provide funding to VISIT Milwaukee. None of these tax revenues are used to fund WCD operations.

Within the boundaries of Milwaukee County, WCD collects 2.5% on rooms, 3% on car rentals, and 0.5% on food and beverage sales. It also receives a 7% hotel room tax formerly collected by the City of Milwaukee. In January, 2011, the county-wide hotel room tax increased from 2% to 2.5%; the increase was requested by hoteliers to provide additional funding for Visit Milwaukee.

This financial plan is supported by political and business leaders - in particular, Wisconsin's hotel and restaurant associations - as an investment in economic growth. Among U.S. cities, Milwaukee is rare in that its visitor taxes are used only for visitor-oriented marketing, facilities and services.

WCD's diverse, skilled staff of about 285 full- and part-time employees markets and maintains the facilities, books and services events, and helps promote and produce them. Visit Milwaukee solicits major convention and tradeshow bookings, and WCD books smaller meetings as well as sports, entertainment and consumer shows. Levy Restaurants, WCD's exclusive food service provider, books banquet, luncheons and receptions.

Some WCD employees are members of such bargaining units as the International Association of Theater & Stage Employees, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the International Union of Operating Engineers, the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters and the International Brotherhood of Painters & Allied Workers.

A wide variety of private businesses and entrepreneurs ranging from event planners and decorators to florists and specialty food providers do business in WCD facilities, or deliver products and services to WCD clients.

Economic Impact
WCD exists to support Milwaukee's economy by attracting visitors and wealth to the community. In addition to the economic impact of visitor spending for rooms, meals, transportation and entertainment, WCD and its caterer, Levy Restaurants, help cultivate small and disadvantaged business development through "third-party vendor" contracts for specialty foods and other contracts for everything from construction services to printing. WCD's success in fueling local and regional prosperity is measurable in many ways, including the opening of some 1,500 new downtown hotel rooms since 1996. WCD has also helped stimulate community pride and economic development on the downtown, neighborhood and metropolitan levels.

Businesses impacted by conventions

2012 Economic Impact Analysis

Green Practices

The Wisconsin Center District is committed to minimizing waste, pollution, and its carbon footprint. Among the energy and water conservation, recycling and waste reduction initiatives at the Wisconsin Center, UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena and Milwaukee Theatre:

Energy Conservation:

  • All-new, high-efficiency HVAC system installed in Milwaukee Theatre during 2001-03 renovation;
  • UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena’s hot water steam converter replaced with high efficiency unit;
  • HVAC controls recalibrated and re-commissioned in the administrative offices and meeting rooms, exhibit halls, the ballroom and other areas of the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena and Wisconsin Center, resulting in 10-15% energy use reductions;
  • Preventive maintenance and repairs to HVAC dampers and seals in the Wisconsin Center and UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena;
  • HVAC static pressure in the Wisconsin Center adjusted to positive vs. negative air flow to avoid taking in unheated outdoor air in winter, uncooled air in summer;
  • HVAC set point sensors in all three buildings reset and recalibrated to 68-72° f; deviations require approvals.
  • Hot water sensors in the systems automatically recalibrate according to outside air temperatures;
  • Thermostats in fire towers, stairways and other unoccupied spaces in all three facilities set to absolutely minimize unnecessary heating and cooling of unused spaces. Can be temporarily reset to meet client needs.
  • High-efficiency, variable speed drives and water circulation pumps installed in Wisconsin Center HVAC systems, resulting in 10%-12% energy-use reductions;
  • Motion-sensor lighting controls in restrooms and elevators in all three facilities, reducing electricity use approximately 35%-60%.
  • Ongoing relamping and fixture replacement in all three facilities, including signage and message boards, to utilize high-pressure sodium, compact fluorescent, led and other high-efficiency light sources.
  • Ongoing utility cost trend analysis includes monitoring and regular review of steam, electricity, gas and water consumption, to help identify where greater efficiencies can be achieved.

Water conservation:

  • “Low flow” restroom fixtures installed during initial Wisconsin Center and Milwaukee Theatre construction projects;
  • Restroom fixtures in all three facilities controlled by motion sensors and automatic shutoffs;
  • Metal “fills” in Wisconsin Center HVAC cooling towers replaced with high-efficiency units, reducing the use of both water and chemicals.

Recycling & Waste Reduction:

  • 100% or high-recycled-content and fully-recyclable or compostable disposable food service items (e.g., sandwich wrappers, flatware, cups, etc.) used by Levy Restaurants in all WCD facilities;
  • Comprehensive, single-stream solid waste recycling implemented in cooperation with Waste Management, Inc. and Levy Restaurants.
  • Silver certification under Waste Management's Green Leader™ program.

A report from Waste Management shows how much of WCD's waste stream was diverted from landfills between January and October, 2014:

Recycling and Waste Stream Summary

Note that the summary does NOT include e-waste (computers, media, electronic devices, power supplies, etc.), batteries, fluorescent lamps, or pallets, all of which we recycle, sell or donate before they ever enter the recorded waste stream!


The history of our facilities dates to the opening of the Milwaukee Auditorium in 1909, and our heritage goes back even further, to the erection of a public market house on the site in 1867, followed by the opening of the Industrial Exposition Building at the same location in 1881.

In fact, Milwaukee's very name is thought to derive from the Ojibway for "gathering place by the waters," signifying its centuries-old role as a hospitable place where people of many Indian nations came together to conduct trade, learn about new technology, politic and socialize - just like conventions today!

Timeline of historical milestones

List of Milwaukee Auditorium/Theatre and Arena shows

A history of the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena

Historic Images from the Milwaukee Auditorium

Thorsten Lindberg murals image gallery

About Thorsten Lindberg and his murals in the Milwaukee Theatre

History of Milwaukee, City & County by William George Bruce & Josiah Seymour Currey (1922); Chapter XXVII: The Milwaukee Auditorium

Cream City Chronicles: Stories of Milwaukee's Past, Volume 4, by John Gurda (2006); If These Halls Could Talk: Milwaukee Auditorium was City's Parlor

The Future

When originally opened as the Midwest Express Center in 1998, the Wisconsin Center was designed with a Phase III expansion in mind, extending to the north to Kilbourn Avenue. In this or a fourth phase, the center would ultimately to be connected to the Arena and Auditorium. However, this expansion was delayed by the tumultuous economic and political currents of the 21st century's opening decade.

In 2013, based in part on the 2012 Economic Impact Analysis, the Wisconsin Center District commissioned a feasibility study outlining the District's competitive needs and proposing a modest expansion of 60,000 feet of new exhibit space, a 14,000 square-foot junior ballroom, and additional meeting rooms. This study was released on May 14, 2014.

Because this expansion initiative coincided with a separate community discussion about erecting a new basketball arena for the Milwaukee Bucks NBA franchise, the study went further in proposing a master plan to redevelop the downtown corridor between 4th and 6th Street as a pedestrian-friendly sports & entertainment district. The plans for the new arena project ultimately resemble this proposal.

Wisconsin Center Expansion Market & Feasibility Analysis

 Financial Information

2006 Annual Report (1.8 MB)

2007 Financial Statement (377 KB)

2007 Annual Report (2.06 MB)

2008 Financial Statement (357 KB)

2008 Annual Report (1.17 MB)

2009 Financial Statement (286 KB)

2009 Annual Report (1.5 MB)

2010 Financial Statement (1.1 MB)

2010 Annual Report (824 KB)

2011 Financial Statement (610 KB)

2011 Annual Report (1.6 MB)

2012 Financial Statement (537 KB)

2012 Annual Report (2 MB)

2013 Financial Statement (1.3 MB)

2013 Annual Report (1.9 MB)

2014 Financial Statement (1.7 MB)

Franklyn M. Gimbel, Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown, Chairperson
James C. Kaminski, Kaminski Consultants, Vice Chairperson
Alderman Willie L. Hines, Jr., Milwaukee Common Council President, Secretary
VACANT, City of Milwaukee Comptroller, Treasurer

Joel Brennan, Discovery World
Senator Alberta Darling, Wisconsin State Senate
VACANT, Mayor City of Wauwatosa
Alderman Ashanti Hamilton, City of Milwaukee
Chris Schoenherr, Wisconsin Secretary of Administration
Stephen H. Marcus, The Marcus Corporation
Representative Robin Vos, Wisconsin State Assembly
Alderman Terry Witkowski, City of Milwaukee

Richard A. Geyer, Wisconsin Center District President & CEO

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Box Office Information:
Milwaukee Theatre
500 W. Kilbourn Ave.
UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena
400 W. Kilbourn Ave.
Upcoming Events

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