Still plenty to look forward to for state’s sports fans – and businesses

Commentary

Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:13 pm

I am still in a funk about the Green Bay Packers’ loss in the NFC Championship game. The team had a great run and overcame a ton of adversity. But it’s always tough to get so close to the Super Bowl, only to be denied.

I can only imagine how Wisconsin sports bar owners and Packers apparel vendors feel.

Despite that disappointment, Wisconsin sports fans – and area businesses – have a lot to look forward to later this year. The region will host two major national sporting events.

The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship is coming to Milwaukee again in March. The tournament provides a great boost to Milwaukee hotels at what is normally a slow time of the year. Area hotels normally do great in the warm weather months, but have much lower occupancy rates while the weather is cold.

I would love to see my Wisconsin Badgers return to the BMO Harris Bradley Center, where they started their Final Four run in 2014. But downtown businesses would probably be better off if teams with large, passionate fan bases (such as the University of Kentucky) traveled here and spent their money at hotels and restaurants. Many local fans will just go home after the game, making less of an economic impact.

This will be the fourth time Marquette University and the Bradley Center have hosted the NCAA tournament since 2004, which has been great for Milwaukee. Hopefully, the tournament continues to return on a regular basis at the new arena. You would think so. The planned “live block” could be a great pre-game and post-game setting during the tournament.

An even bigger event will come to the area this summer. The U.S. Open will be played at Erin Hills in Washington County from Jun 15 to 18. It will be the first time the event, perhaps the biggest of the professional golf majors, is played in Wisconsin.

Since the late ’90s, Kohler Co. has hosted the PGA Championship and the U.S. Women’s Open several times at its Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run golf courses. Those events brought thousands of visitors to Sheboygan County and invaluable international exposure for the area and those golf courses, considered some of the best in the nation.

Now it’s Erin Hills’ turn. The U.S. Open also will bring thousands to area hotels and restaurants, and will put the golf course and the Kettle Moraine area on the international map. The TV shots of Holy Hill as a backdrop to the course will be priceless.

Visit Milwaukee says the U.S. Open will have a $60 million economic impact on the Milwaukee area, and the United States Golf Association says the economic impact on southeastern Wisconsin will be $125 million. That’s huge, obviously.

The exposure from these tournaments has done wonders for the reputation of the Kohler Co. golf courses and Erin Hills. Wisconsin is surprisingly becoming a major destination for world-class golf. Just wait. The much-anticipated opening of Sand Valley Golf Resort in May near Nekoosa will provide yet another big-time golf attraction for the state.

Now if only I could fix my lousy swing.

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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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