Downtown Hotels Refurbish Their Ballrooms

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:39 pm

Several hotels in the downtown Milwaukee area are upgrading and renovating their ballrooms and meeting spaces to stay up to date and to continue to market to new groups of people.

The Pfister Hotel at 424 E. Wisconsin Ave. will begin a seventh-floor renovation of its atrium and most of its ballrooms next summer, said Keith Halfmann, general manager for the Pfister.

"The colors will change," Halfmann said. "The carpet, wall covering and paint will change color, but it will still be a wonderful social space."

HVAC work will be done in the grand ballroom and the Pfister will be upgrading the finishes in the grand ballroom and the Hall of Presidents to locate a new look while keeping with the traditional European design theme, Halfmann said.

The Pfister will try to complete the renovations in the shortest time possible but expects it will take a couple of months, Halfmann said.

"Certainly, keeping the ballrooms in top shape is a priority," Halfmann said. "We are always looking for different avenues of business streams so that the space is maximized and used every day of the week."

Marcus Corp., which owns the Pfister, also owns the Wyndham Milwaukee Center hotel at 139 E. Kilbourn Ave. Marcus is renovating the Wyndham ballroom as part of a makeover of the hotel.

The Hyatt Regency Milwaukee, located at 333 W. Kilbourn Ave., completed renovations to its ballrooms in January, said general Herb Rackliff.

The Hyatt ballroom renovation, which included wall treatments, carpeting and lighting upgrades, was phase two of a $1.1 million four-phase project updating the entire hotel, Rackliff said.

"Every hotel requires updating on an annual basis to some degree, and this was slated to be accomplished this year in an effort that guests get the best available," Rackliff said. "It is what they are anticipating when they stay at the hotel."

The first phase involved purchasing grand beds for the guest rooms. The third phase will be the renovation of guest bathrooms, which will start this fall, and the fourth phase will include the renovation of the second-floor meeting space, Rackliff said.

"We are always looking to reach out to other markets, but most important is to maintain a high standard at the Hyatt hotel as we do with every Hyatt hotel," Rackliff said.

Rick Wiegand, owner of the Ambassador Hotel, located at 2308 W. Wisconsin Ave., has invested $10 million into the building since he purchased it for $2 million in 1995. After renovating one meeting space into Envoy, an upscale restaurant and bar, Wiegand invested $500,000 into the Ambassador’s two meeting spaces, the Attaché room on the lower level and the Embassy Room on the first level, which had previously been used for storage.

"The Embassy Room had not been remodeled in 30 years," Wiegand said. "There was a drop ceiling that covered the original art deco crown molding, which I did not realize until we took the ceiling down."

When Wiegand started work to upgrade the HVAC system, he discovered the crown molding that was installed when the building was first built in 1928. He decided to relocate the HVAC system to keep the original ceiling exposed. Later in the renovation, Wiegand started to replace the carpet and found original terrazzo floors, which he also decided to restore as well.

"The renovations give a high level of class and historic charm to the space," Wiegand said. "You feel like you are in someplace special."

The second meeting space at the Ambassador Hotel that was renovated was the Attaché Room, Wiegand said. He tore out the old ceilings and opened up windows that had been closed for years, he said.

"The windows had been boarded up, so opening them added a lot of life and light to the room," Wiegand said.

Both spaces have new HVAC systems, electrical work, phones and high speed Internet with A/V connections.

"We have definitely received a good reception," Wiegand said. "The rooms are very attractive areas for people that want to have rehearsal dinners, meetings and private parties," Wiegand said.

Hotel Metro, located at 411 E. Mason St., recently opened its rooftop bar and meeting space. The space, called Zen on Seven, features a bar and closed meeting area that seats 40, an indoor/outdoor fireplace, outdoor seating and a rooftop garden with a waterfall, flowers and a pond with turtles and Coi fish surrounded by bamboo trim.

The renovations transformed a plain roof covered in tar into a high-class meeting and lounge space that is decorated in a manner that reflects the rest of the art deco Hotel Metro, director of sales Mark Hansen said.

Hotel Metro also utilized the rooftop space to add an exercise room and hot tub for guests’ use.

The rooftop bar and patio offers unique views of the downtown area and is open to the public when a private party is not scheduled, Hansen said.

Three fluorescent lights trim the enclosed bar and meeting space. The top and bottom lights are blue, and the middle light is white. Hotel Metro hopes to send signals down to the passersby when the bar is open to the public, Hansen said.

"When (the lights are) blue and white, we are closed tonight," Hansen said. "When two are blue, we are open for you – so come up and have drinks."


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