Leaders of the Democratic National Convention’s host committee said cities other than Milwaukee should prepare events for convention-goers.
Speaking Nov. 5 at a WisPolitics.com luncheon in Madison, Milwaukee 2020 honorary Finance Chair Alex Lasry noted only 17,000 of the estimated 57,000 people who will attend the convention will have access to Fiserv Forum, the arena that will serve as the DNC’s headquarters during the four days of festivities.
“There’s another 40,000 people who are coming into the convention who will never go into Fiserv Forum,” said Lasry, a top Milwaukee Bucks executive. “What cities like Madison should be thinking about is, `What can I do to attract 40,000 people who all need something to do during the day or during the week?’”
Lasry harkened back to the Dem convention in Philadelphia in 2016 and recalled a Lady Gaga concert held 45 minutes away from the convention site in New Jersey attended by 20,000 convention-goers. He suggested Madison’s Camp Randall could host a concert as well, adding “it doesn’t have to be partisan.”
“This is a chance to advertise, and this is a chance to show everyone, hey, we’ve got a great university system here,” he said. “Come do your Ph.D. and then look at all of the great jobs that you can have when you’re here or if you’re looking to start a business, Madison and Milwaukee are great places to start.”
U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Town of Vermont, said the efforts to showcase the state to people attending the convention should go beyond the state’s two largest cities.
“People will go to Door County. If they’re doing it well, Kenosha and Racine will take advantage of the lakefront and have some events during this time,” the host committee vice chair said. “It’s going to be just a really great opportunity both at the beginning and the end of the convention as well because people will come in early and they’ll stay longer.”
Host Committee President Liz Gilbert furthered that point, adding “there will be folks staying in hotels all throughout this state.”
“These people are looking for things to do during the day,” she said. “So how do we come together as a community here or in other cities throughout Wisconsin to say, `Here is a day trip, here is an activity,’ making sure that you have pamphlets and information at the hotels where people are staying.
“Those are all conversations that we’re having right now, that we’re really being very forward-thinking about our programming in that way.”
Gilbert also touted a partnership her committee developed with the state Department of Tourism, an agency she said was looking at holding events in Milwaukee the week of the convention to showcase “the true Wisconsin experience.”
Lasry said he expected the bulk of convention activity to take place at Fiserv Forum. Asked if there was a chance of a repeat of the 2008 Dem convention when Barack Obama changed venue from the Pepsi Center arena to the Denver Broncos stadium for his acceptance speech, the Milwaukee Bucks senior vice president was quick to shoot down the idea.
Lasry noted the Milwaukee Brewers had a home game scheduled the day before the convention kicked off, effectively ruling out the city’s other large sports venue. As for heading outstate, Lasry said he didn’t “expect any of that to happen.”
“We’re not going to go out to Lambeau for a big event,” he said. “It’s possible they do something at Camp Randall. I can’t imagine that, that’s not something that’s being talked about.
“I might be a little biased, but Fiserv Forum is a great place to have the keynote, so I don’t see why we would go anywhere else.”
Hear audio from the luncheon: