ASHWAUBENON – Green Bay area could finally get a visitors center to welcome tourists and promote northeastern Wisconsin, with a new round of public funding announced Tuesday by Governor Tony Evers.
During a visit to the Hinterland Brewery near Lambeau Field, Evers said he plans to set aside $ 10 million of Wisconsin money from the US Federal Rescue Plan to be spent on improving infrastructure related to tourism. Regional groups can apply for up to $ 3.5 million for a single project, and Evers expects the money to be allocated this fall.
“We know that when we invest in our tourism it pays off,” Evers said. “Our goal with these funds is not only to ensure that Wisconsin’s tourism industry continues to recover, but also to ensure that it builds a strong future for the industry.”
Local tourism and city leaders say they still need $ 2 million to build the visitor center near Interstate 41 and Lombardi Avenue, but have struggled to secure funding from the Status for the project.
Tourism officials have expressed satisfaction with the industry’s recovery in 2021 after the coronavirus pandemic slashed visitor spending in Wisconsin in 2020.
Discover Green Bay CEO Brad Toll said it will likely take years to return to pre-pandemic levels, making capital investments in projects like the Green Bay Area Visitor Center vital. The $ 6.5 million building would help boost tourism spending in the Green Bay area and across the state, he said.
“This is an opportunity to move our project forward as well as other projects in the state,” Toll said of the visitor center plan. “We’re ready to go. It’s just a matter of having the funding in place to move forward.”
Discover Baie Verte, the regional marketing agency formerly known as Green Bay Convention and Tourism Office, has been lobbying the state to provide the remaining $ 2 million needed to build a 12,500 square foot reception center since 2018, when it first announced the plan.
The fundraising request received support from elected Republican and Democratic officials in the region, but became a political football in Madison. Evers included funding for the visitors’ center in an earlier budget, but it was cut by Assembly Republicans. The State Assembly approved a bill in February 2020 to loan the money to Discover Green Bay, but it was not taken up by the State Senate.
Evers frequented the Green Bay area last month, with a third stop on Tuesday. On July 14, he announced $ 130 million in funding for the US bailout for regional workforce development initiatives. And on July 8, he hosted a press conference at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay after signing the state’s biennial budget.