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Brown County board approves $500,000 loan to build new visitor center

By Kevin Boneske
Staff Writer

BROWN COUNTY – A $500,000 interest-free loan for the Greater Green Bay Area Convention and Visitors Bureau to build a new visitor center in Ashwaubenon was approved Wednesday, Feb. 20, by the Brown County Board of Supervisors on a 20-5 vote.

The terms of the 10-year loan between the county and the CVB do not require any payments to be made until years 6-10 when $100,000 would be due in each of those years.

Board Chairman Patrick Moynihan Jr. spoke in favor of assisting in the construction of a new visitor center with the loan to the CVB, which he called to an “extension of county government” that assists in economic development in the area.

“The CVB not only promotes tourism, but they also are the ambassadors of economic development, espousing the virtues of the county to both to those that may want to know the area seeking employment and those that may want to create employment opportunities,” Moynihan said. “It is also a place of discovery and learning for those who visit.”

By not providing the loan, which is similar to the one provided in 2013 for the county golf course, Moynihan said that could be “a great setback in regard to the construction timeline” if the CVB doesn’t meet its threshold of having enough financial commitments to start building the facility.

“I remind everybody – this is not a giveaway,” he said. “This is a loan.”

The CVB announced plans last year to construct a $6.5 million visitor center, to be called the Experience Greater Green Bay Visitor Center, located near Interstate 41 and Lombardi Avenue off of Argonne Street behind the new US Bank building in Ashwaubenon.

Once constructed, the two-story, 12,500-square-foot visitor center would be managed and programmed by the CVB, which will move its offices there after having operating out of Brown County Veterans Memorial Arena since the organization was founded in 1969.

The plans for the visitor center include featuring community spaces and an atrium with interactive displays that highlight attractions in the Green Bay area, the history and traditions of the community and its industries, along with the center having an outdoor plaza and garden.

Construction is planned to start this spring with the visitor center scheduled to open in the summer of 2020.

Fundraising for the Experience Greater Green Bay Visitor Center is being facilitated by Experience Greater Green Bay, a 501(c)(3) partner of the CVB, to which contributions for the project will be tax deductible.

CVB President/CEO Brad Toll said Experience Greater Green Bay has received pledge commitments of more than $3 million, including the largest contribution of $1.5 million from the Oneida Nation.

Once 85 percent of the funds to construct the visitor center would be committed, Toll said the loan from the county will make it possible for the project to proceed.

Toll said the county has been “very supportive and helpful” by loaning money without interest to build the new visitor center, thereby making it possible for the CVB to commit dollars for marketing that would otherwise have to be spent on paying interest.

Being that all the money for the project will be raised from donations, Toll said it could be possible to repay the county prior to when the loan payments are due.

The resolution authorizing the interest-free loan to the CVB notes appropriating $500,000 from the county’s general fund will result in a reduction of approximately $15,000 per year in interest earned, which is projected to be offset by increased interest revenue.

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