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Exterior design unveiled for Brown County expo center

By Lee Reinsch

GREEN BAY — During the daytime, the $93 million Brown County expo center’s walls of glass will let natural light flood the interior, and at night, they’ll show off a well-lighted interior to people outside.

A viewing balcony facing Lambeau Field is designed with game days in mind. Outside, a plaza area or beer garden will allow for outdoor events. Guests will be able to access restrooms and concession areas from outside as well as inside.

It will be as different from the current Brown County Veterans Memorial Arena as day is from night.

“If you drive by the Brown County Arena now, it’s a dark building, with no glazing, no life to it; there’s no access to natural light,” said Jeff Piette, principal with the firm Kahler Slater, one of the firms designing the complex. “From the street, it looks like there’s nothing going on.”

The public got the chance Monday, March 11, to see blueprints and renderings and to ask questions of the project’s architects at the final open house for the expo center. About two dozen people turned out for the event, which was held at the Brown County Central Library.

“A lot of events are held in winter, and it will be a refuge where you’re warm and safe inside but with all of the natural light, you will feel like you’re outside,” said Matthew Breest of the architectural firm Populous, another firm involved. “Inside, it’s nature meets industry, with wood tones, stone tones, metal tones and tile, plus lots of light.”

The new facility will have 125,000 square feet of usable space, although its footprint will have about twice that. Its three separate halls will give it the capacity to hold multiple events at the same time inside, with outdoor space for other events. A limited second story will have six meeting rooms and document storage as well as the Lambeau-facing balcony.

“This will enable us to attract larger events than we were able to before,” said Jeff Flynt, deputy county executive for Brown County. “It will be state-of-the-art, and it will be very attractive to visitors.”

PMI Entertainment Group CEO Ken Wachter said its size bumps it up into a higher-tier event center.

“We will be able to bid on larger events than we could before,” he said, adding that he’s excited about the plans.

The complex will be connected to the Resch Center, and its large kitchen will serve both the Resch and the new complex.

The main entrance will be off Armed Forces Drive. Facing Lombardi Avenue will be loading bays and storage areas.

Exhibitors will be able to drive their vehicles into the building to unload their gear and set up.

“We have a lot of users who are small operators who want to drive onto to the floor and unload,” Piette said. “You can have vehicles come in one door and out another.”

Demolition of the current Brown County Veterans Memorial Arena, Shopko Hall and the former Packers Hall of Fame to make way for the new expo center and could begin as early as April, with construction starting this summer.

Those involved say they plan to have it up and running by January of 2021.

The Brown County Education and Recreation Committee approved the plan in a meeting after the open house. The county board needs to approve the project.

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