Excitement over Fox Cities Exhibition Center
APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) – – With the doors now open, people from across the Fox Valley turned out Thursday night to look through the new Fox Cities Exhibition Center, which is expected to promote tourism and attract big conventions to downtown Appleton.
Appleton Mayor Tim Hanna says, “I think when people come in for the first time, they come in at the street level and they go down that big escalator, it definitely has a wow factor, to say this is really cool. So now it’s just getting the word out.”
Decades in the making, the Fox Cities Exhibition Center had its grand opening Thursday.
Workers broke ground on the nearly $32 million project in September 2016. It took over 15 months to build the 30,000 square foot building.
Appleton Mayor Tim Hanna and Wisconsin Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett spoke at the ribbon cutting ceremony before a big crowd of community leaders and area politicians, then the public was invited to take a self-guided tour of the facility.
Discussions about an exhibition center started about three decades ago. It’s being funded through a room tax partnership among Appleton and nine neighboring communities.
“To have ten municipalities work together for a shared common goal, that wasn’t easy to achieve. There were so many levels to this project, and really for them to come together and embrace it and make this happen that is a big, big deal,” Secretary Klett said.
The lobby, ground floor and exhibit hall can host up to three events at a time. There’s a pre-function space good for socials and cocktails, meeting space, and 17,000 square feet of outdoor space for rent.
Twenty events are already booked for this year, and Hanna says he expects more.
“It’s really an opportunity for us now to put our best foot forward and step up and say what else can we bring to the table to help push this even further and bring even more to downtown Appleton,” Jennifer Stephany of Appleton Downtown Inc. said.
“As the businesses around here come to understand the flexibility of that space that they’re going to be bidding on bringing their industry trade shows here. That’s what I see happening,” said Hanna.
Hanna says the result blends in with the community around it.
“It’s better than what I expected. When the architect came with this design and we started to get a feel for it, you know, it’s one of the things I love about it. It’s a huge space but it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb in the middle of your city.”
Klett spoke about the unity of the Fox Valley, and how it allowed the project to move forward.
“To have ten municipalities work together for a shared common goal, that wasn’t easy to achieve. There were so many levels to this project, and really for them to come together and embrace it and make this happen that is a big big deal,” she said.
A number of community and business leaders also attended the event. Many expressed excitement over the building’s potential to attract big conventions.
Jennifer Stephany of Appleton Downtown, INC said, “It’s really an opportunity for us now to put our best foot forward and step up and say what else can we bring to the table to help push this even further and bring even more to downtown Appleton.”
So far about 20 events have been scheduled at the exhibition center this year. This includes the Governor’s Conference on Tourism. That event is expected to attract a thousand people over three days in March.