Baird to be naming rights sponsor for downtown Milwaukee’s convention center

When expansion project is complete, facility will be known as the Baird Center

Rendering of the Baird Center

Last updated on March 14th, 2023 at 09:25 pm

After 10 years without a corporate naming rights sponsor, the downtown Milwaukee convention center, long known as the Wisconsin Center, will get a new name.

Milwaukee-based investment bank and financial services company Robert W. Baird & Co. will be the new naming rights sponsor for the facility, which will be known as the Baird Center.

The Wisconsin Center District board today announced that it has authorized the district to finalize a naming rights agreement with Baird. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The 15-year deal and the new name for the convention center will officially begin in May of 2024, when the $456 million expansion of the convention center is complete. The deal also provides Baird with a five-year extension option.

“The WCD leadership team and I are dedicated to leveraging our core values to be bold, be proud, be experience obsessed, to guide every business decision we make,” said WCD President and CEO Marty Brooks. “Since our board trusted our bold vision and authorized the expansion project in 2020, we knew that a naming rights agreement would follow. 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.”

“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 chief executive officer Steve Booth. “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 downtown Milwaukee convention center opened in 1998 and was originally known as the Midwest Express Center under a naming rights agreement with the Oak Creek-based airline. The name of the convention center was changed to Midwest Airlines Center in 2002 when the airline rebranded and then to Frontier Airlines Center in 2010 after Frontier’s parent company acquired Midwest Airlines and phased out the brand, merging it into Frontier Airlines.

Delta Air Lines purchased the naming rights for the Milwaukee convention center in 2012. It was known as the Delta Center until the airline terminated the deal in 2013.

The facility has been known as the Wisconsin Center ever since then and the Wisconsin Center District has been seeking a new naming rights sponsor.

The naming rights deal with Baird comes as the expansion project continues for the downtown Milwaukee convention center. That project, which began in 2021, is expected to be complete in May of 2024. Upon completion the facility will have 52 meeting rooms, a 300,000-square-foot exhibit hall, 22 loading docks, a 400-stall indoor parking garage, and a new rooftop ballroom with seating for 2,000 and outdoor terraces.

The Wisconsin Center District says it will use the rest of 2023 to transition the branding and logo package for the convention center. The new logo for the venue will be revealed at a formal topping off ceremony on April 11, which will commemorate the placement of the last piece of structural steel and start a new phase of construction for the expansion project.

Andrew is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, he is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, their son, Zach, and their dog, Hokey. He is an avid sports fan and is a member of the Muskego Athletic Association board of directors.

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