Commentary: More big events are coming here

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It certainly looks like 2020 is going to be a big year for southeastern Wisconsin.

Of course the Democratic National Convention will be held in Milwaukee, bringing 50,000 visitors, a $200 million economic impact, plus international media attention to the region.

But that’s not all. The Ryder Cup, one of the biggest events in professional golf, will be held at Whistling Straits in Sheboygan County from Sept. 22 to 27, 2020. More than 250,000 attended the 2016 Ryder Cup in Chaska, Minnesota. Expect another huge crowd for the Ryder Cup next year and an economic impact that reaches well beyond Sheboygan County.

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The Ryder Cup is a biennial men’s golf tournament between teams from Europe and the United States, so it will bring more international attention to our region and all it has to offer.

Ticket demand for the Ryder Cup is so significant that golf fans have to register for a lottery in hopes of being selected for the opportunity to buy tickets.

Southeastern Wisconsin has hosted numerous championship golf tournaments. Whistling Straits was the site of the PGA Championship in 2004, 2010 and 2015. Blackwolf Run in Kohler hosted the U.S. Women’s Open in 1998 and 2012. Erin Hills in Washington County was the site of the 2017 U.S. Open.

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What’s next? The United States Golf Association recently announced that Erin Hills will host the 2025 U.S. Women’s Open and the 2022 U.S. Mid-Amateur. That prompted Chicago Tribune columnist Teddy Greenstein to speculate that the USGA plans to eventually award Erin Hills with another U.S. Open. I hope so.

Kohler Co. wants to build another championship-caliber golf course along Lake Michigan in Sheboygan County. But unfortunately, the project has been delayed by a legal battle over environmental concerns.

Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Bucks remain ambitious about attracting major events to Fiserv Forum. Bucks senior vice president Alex Lasry led Milwaukee’s stunning bid to get the DNC, which will be held at the arena. The Bucks have also made it known they hope to host an NBA All-Star game, perhaps in 2023.

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Coincidentally, 2023 is also the year that Harley-Davidson Inc. presumably would hold its next big reunion bash, its 120th, in Milwaukee. The 115th, held last year, attracted about 150,000 motorcyclists to the region, making an estimated economic impact of $95 million.

And don’t forget the many big events held annually in Milwaukee, including Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and Northwestern Mutual’s Annual Meeting of the Association of Agents. Usually held in July, the Northwestern Mutual event for 2020 was pushed back to August to accommodate the DNC. It brings 12,000 people to Milwaukee each year.

With so much success attracting and hosting major events, local leaders need to keep thinking about ways to bring in even more. Hopefully, that sparks discussion to finally move forward with long-delayed plans to expand the Wisconsin Center downtown.

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