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Wisconsin: Capital ideas keep coming in Madison

Courtesy Greater Madison CVB

Building on the success of its meeting and convention initiatives, Wisconsin’s capital city has launched the Madison Area Sports Commission to increase its share of the sports market.

“When we looked at our future, sports rose to the top,” said Diane Morgenthaler, director of marketing, Greater Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau (GMCVB). “It was a good business decision, because the sports market segment is growing despite the economic downturn and because it fits well with Madison.”

The city’s numerous sports venues already hold large-scale events such as the annual 30,000-person Ford Ironman Wisconsin and the 7,500-attendee National Kidney Foundation’s 2010 U.S. Transplant Games.

“Our two largest facilities for both sports and conventions are the Monona Terrace Convention Center and the Alliant Energy Center,” said Kristi Thering-Tuschen, director of convention sales, GMCVB. “The Alliant center is located on 164 acres in south Madison and includes a 150,000-square-foot exhibition hall, 10,000-seat Veterans Memorial Coliseum and a 29-acre natural green space called Willow Island.”

Two hotels, the attached 140-room Clarion Suites Hotel and adjacent 239-room Sheraton Madison, serve the center; the complex has 5,800 parking spaces.

The Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Monona Terrace, on Lake Monona in downtown, is a 250,000-square-foot facility with a 40,000-square-foot exhibit hall, a 14,000-square-foot ballroom and a 68,000-square-foot rooftop garden. Lodging is available at the attached 240-room Hilton Madison Monona Terrace.

“These two facilities, Alliant and the Monona Terrace, complement each other by appealing to different market segments,” said Thering-Tuschen. “We target core market industries, including bioscience, agribusiness, government, sports, education and health care, as well as various hobby groups.”

About 85 percent of Madison’s meeting and convention business has had a local connection in recent years due to the success of the CVB’s longtime “Bring Your Meeting Home” campaign.

“We recently honored a group of citizens whose events generated over $39 million in direct economic impact for the city,” said Thering-Tuschen.

A new initiative promises meeting planners that the GMCVB sales staff will go beyond the expected to ensure a successful convention.
“Originally a branding campaign, Going Beyond Visit is really a philosophy about who we are and what we will provide to create an outstanding experience,” said Morgenthaler.

As home to the University of Wisconsin, Madison has many cultural and educational options, and its location on an isthmus between two lakes makes its downtown scenic and compact. An emphasis on the outdoors means plenty of bike paths, parks and water sports.

The city has 9,000 hotel rooms, including 1,900 added by the opening of 17 hotels in the past five years. The newest is the 151-room Hyatt Place Madison/Downtown.

One of the city’s oldest properties is the Best Western Inn on Park Capitol Square, which has 20,000 square feet of meeting space and 219 renovated rooms. Its Top of the Park banquet facility has views of the Wisconsin Capitol, Lake Mendota and Lake Monona.

Other downtown properties include the 163-room Doubletree Hotel Madison and the 350-room Madison Concourse Hotel and Governor’s Club. The city’s east side is home to the newly renovated 226-room Crowne Plaza Madison, which added 10,300 square feet of meeting space last year.