Milwaukee hosts DNC officials for 2020 convention site visit

City competing with Houston and Miami Beach as host city finalists

Democratic Party official Jaime Harrison, congresswoman Gwen Moore, Democratic Party official Jess O’Connell, local bid committee chair Alex Lasry, and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett address the media today at Fiserv Forum.

A fleet of Harley-Davidson motorcycles this morning escorted a group of Democratic National Committee officials to Fiserv Forum in downtown Milwaukee, the first stop on a two-day tour of Milwaukee as a potential host city for the party’s 2020 convention.

Milwaukee, Miami Beach and Houston are the three cities competing to host the DNC’s four-day convention, set to take place from July 13 to 16, 2020. The event would attract about 50,000 visitors to the city and would generate about $200 million economic impact, according to city leaders.  

Fiserv Forum, which officially opened to the public on Aug. 26, would be the convention’s main venue. The Milwaukee Bucks’ new $524 million arena has been a key selling point for the city throughout the selection process.

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“Here we are today with a brand new arena, with state-of-the-art technology that makes it possible to have all the communication needs for a convention of this size to be met,” Mayor Tom Barrett said Tuesday during a press conference. “We’re ready. There’s no question we’re ready, it’s just a question as to whether the committee decides this is the best place for them to come.”

The 16-person site selection committee today and tomorrow will tour Fiserv Forum and the Wisconsin Center, as well as hotels and various event venues throughout the city. A reception will be held tonight for the committee to mingle with local business leaders. 

“We’re in this together for the city that we choose, so getting to know people is a really important part of that,” said Jess O’Connell, selection director for the Democratic National Committee’s technical advisory group.

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The local bid committee has also touted the city’s diverse population, growing economy, accessible location, and transportation and hotel accommodations for large-scale events. According to Visit Milwaukee, the city is equipped to accommodate the approximately 16,000 hotel rooms used nightly during the convention.  

The bowl inside Fiserv Forum.

The focus of the committee’s site visits are to gauge a city’s capacity to handle convention logistics like transportation, security, and technology.  

“(The convention) is a big show,” said Jaime Harrison, a Democratic Party official. “There’s the back end, or the operations… and there’s what the American people watch on television. We want to make sure the cities that we work with can really help us on that back end component, so that we can spend our time and attention on what the viewers are seeing.”

The committee will announce its host city selection by year’s end or early 2019, but not before November’s elections, O’Connell said.

Once selected, the host city is required to raise “tens of millions of dollars,” some of which will be funded by corporate sponsorships. The DNC will also raise “millions of dollars” to help put on the convention, she said.

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