A sign outside the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena reads "Welcome to Milwaukee" for the 2020 Democratic National Convention.
A sign outside the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena reads "Welcome to Milwaukee" for the 2020 Democratic National Convention. The DNC took place in an almost entirely virtual format at the nearby Wisconsin Center. (Photo by Jonathon Sadowski)

The DNC host city sees a smidgen of the anticipated impact, but the revenue is still welcome.

The good news is that the terminal at Mitchell Field isn’t the pressure cooker hub for a mass exodus of political junkies and journalists. The bad news is Milwaukee’s airport also wasn’t the hub for massive arrivals. Still, Milwaukee’s tourism lobby, Visit Milwaukee, is counting the city’s blessings in the wake of the scaled-down Democratic National Convention.

While the DNC was all but canceled and moved to an almost completely online setting because of health concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic, the event still served its host city well, said Kristin Settle, communications director for Visit Milwaukee.  

“There’s these news articles that say Milwaukee is sad or everything is lost,” Settle said. “That’s not the case at all. This was always a long game for the city, a marathon not a sprint. Winning the DNC told the world that Milwaukee is a world-class city capable of hosting a major political convention.”

The event didn’t draw 50,000 visitors or $200 million in economic activity like originally anticipated, but Settle said it still brought in about $3 million—with $125,000 of that coming to the local government in the form of tax revenue.

And even though delegates were told not to travel to Milwaukee during the convention due to the pandemic, the city’s hotels still booked 4,000 rooms for the week, bringing an unknown number of guests to town, Settle said.

The convention was “a net positive for the city and a boost to the economy that most other cities aren’t seeing right now,” Settle said.

The DNC wrapped up Thursday night, capping off the first-ever major political convention run almost entirely over the internet. 

If you couldn’t make it to Milwaukee, take a brief tour with Kristin Brey and Josh Burstein as they talk to people including subjects of previous UpNorthNews stories: Angela Lang, Caitlin Cullen, and Christina Neumann-Ortiz.

Milwaukee officials, including Mayor Tom Barrett, are already pushing to host the 2024 DNC. 

“We are going to make a play for the 2024 DNC, [Republican National Convention], any convention moving forward because that’s what we do at Visit Milwaukee,” Settle said.

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