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Unpacking The Logistics Of Milwaukee Hosting The DNC

From Hotel Rooms To Volunteers, The DNC Requires Thousands

Carrie Antlfinger/AP Photo

More than 50,000 visitors are expected to stream into Milwaukee for the 2020 Democratic National Convention, bringing in an estimated $200 million.

“This is probably the single largest event that we could bring to Wisconsin,” said Thad Nation, spokesman for the Milwaukee 2020 bid committee.

A big event entails a lot of logistics.

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One of the things the bid committee had to do in order to land the DNC was secure 15,000 hotel rooms within about 20 minutes of the downtown Fiserv Forum, the centerpiece of the convention, which they did.

The city’s tourism agency, Visit Milwaukee, has reached out to cities as far as Madison to help arrange extra hotel rooms, said Rob Guard of Destination Madison.

Nation expects visitors will stay in Madison, Sheboygan and the Lake Geneva areas, in addition to metropolitan and downtown Milwaukee. He also anticipates some delegates, journalists and others will arrive early or stay late to explore the state.

“While they may be coming to Milwaukee for the convention, I think they’re going to take in as much of Wisconsin as they can while they’re here,” he said.

That’s the hope of Sara Meaney, secretary-designee of tourism for the Wisconsin Department of Tourism

“Much of our effort, I believe, is going to be focused on giving people a reason to explore 20 minutes past, an hour and a half past, three hours past that city line and really understand how accessible our incredible state resources really are,” Meaney said.

Meaney said her department’s data shows outdoor recreation is the No. 1 reason why people report visiting Wisconsin.

In the coming months, Meaney said the state Department of Tourism will work with tourism and recreation partners across the state to develop coherent messaging that emphasizes Wisconsin’s natural landscape, from Devil’s Lake in Baraboo to the bluffs of Door County.

“Once they’re exposed to how beautiful our (Lake Superior) is, how amazing our beaches are and have an opportunity to breathe in the amazing summer fresh air, we know they’re going to fall in love with Wisconsin the way we love Wisconsin as well,” Meaney said.

She said the images of Wisconsin depicted in national media do not reflect the heart of Wisconsin, and that the state Department of Tourism hopes the DNC will change that.

“We definitely have our eye on updating and modernizing the world’s view of what Wisconsin has to offer,” Meaney said. “(The DNC) really presents presents an unprecedented national and international media opportunity to put our best foot forward as an entire state.”

Nation agrees the DNC has the potential to benefit the entire state — if residents work together.

The next big number his committee has to hit is 12,000. That’s 12,000 volunteers leading up to and during the convention week.

The jobs will “run the gamut,” Nation said, including helping people find their way in the convention center and throughout the city.

He said he hopes folks from across the state will pitch in.

“If you’re a Democrat (or) you’re a Republican, this is much bigger than that,” Nation said. “This is about nominating a presidential candidate. This is an opportunity for the city of Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin to shine.”

Nation said they’ll hit the road this spring, going around the state to recruit volunteers; people can also sign up now on the Milwaukee 2020 website.