VISIT Milwaukee is creating a new department aimed at drawing sporting evens to the Greater Milwaukee area. Marissa Werner is at the helm of the new initiative as director of sports development, having recently been promoted after a nine-year stint as senior sports and entertainment manager. BizTimes reporter Maredithe Meyer caught up with Werner about her plans to build on recent momentum in the local sports tourism market.
What’s the purpose of VISIT Milwaukee’s new sports division?
“We are kind of behind the ball, as you might say, in comparison to our competitive cities and their dedication to sports tourism. It’s been long overdue and very exciting that we have an executive team on board now that is supporting that vision of really creating a central place within Milwaukee for all sport tourism information, from professional sports to amateur to youth. We want to be that go-to place for all information.”
“With the recent popularity of our own hometown teams – the Milwaukee Bucks and the Milwaukee Brewers – it’s really nice to pivot at this time, especially this year with some other banner events like the Ryder Cup, USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships, USA Ultimate Division I College Championships and USA Gymnastics American Cup. It’s really a banner year for sports (in Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin) and it just made sense to take that next step.”
Does Fiserv Forum help raise the city’s profile?
“Fiserv Forum is a first-class facility that cannot be beaten anywhere in the country at this time, so it has a natural draw just even with the leisure travelers and events. But with the success of the Bucks, they really are the main dog in the race as the main tenant. We look to fill in the holes where we can, but we have so many other top-notch facilities in the area, from the Pettit National Ice Center, The Rock Sports Complex in Franklin, Uihlein Soccer Park in Milwaukee … We focus on about 12 to 15 facilities within the Milwaukee County area.”
Is an NBA All-Star Game in Milwaukee’s future?
“It was so much fun watching some of our own players during the dunk contest (at the 2020 NBA All-Star Game in Chicago). We would love to have that in our own hometown … It’s on the forefront of our minds. We just haven’t found the right timing yet for it to work for all entities involved, but hopefully that should be coming down the pipeline.”
What’s the draw of youth sporting events?
“Our youth events probably bring in some of the largest economic impact … When families are traveling for sports, they tend to stay a day or two because this is their vacation, this is what they’re spending their money on. So, they tend to stay longer in our hotels, spending money in restaurants, experiencing our museums and overall boosting the economy.”
What’s ahead for the region’s golf tourism market, considering the date change of the PGA Championship from August to May?
“With the change of the PGA Championship, yes, it would make it more challenging for us to host (as Whistling Straits has in the past) but it doesn’t make it impossible and it doesn’t mean that the dates couldn’t change down the road again. Right now, I know that PGA has great support and respect for our courses here; same with USGA.”
648 N. Plankinton Ave., Suite 220