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An inside look at the remarkable Resch Expo

By Charles Collier

ASHWAUBENON – For all its grandeur and aesthetics, one would be forgiven for failing to recognize the subtleties built into the Resch Expo unveiled by PMI Entertainment Group last week.

It will be more difficult to overlook the diversity and frequency of events the new facility will offer for decades into the future.

Retractable walls make Resch Expo’s conference rooms adaptable for large meetings, or six separate rooms each equipped with large televisions and projectors. Packer parties akin to stadium suites are one of many envisioned uses. Charles Collier Photo

“This is something all of our area is able to celebrate having here, and we hope everybody does,” Ken Wachter, former PMI president who retired Jan. 1, told The Press Times during a tour of the facility. “This is light years ahead of where we were in a million different ways.”

Todd Gralla, principal-in-charge of the project for design firm Populous, said the facility’s large windows along Oneida Street to the west and Armed Forces Drive to the south are a trailblazing feature.

“Main street was built on store fronts and window shoppers,” Gralla said, “And this is the first major expo center that has a storefront like that.”

Though unaware this was an industry first, Wachter said the window shopper concept was one of the main drivers of the design choice.

“It’s great, because for a car show or a boat show or what have you, there is the added draw of people out on the street being able to see what’s going on and maybe getting interested to come take a look,” he said.

Complementary to the tactic, the Oneida Street sidewalk was widened to provide space for pedestrians on busy days and to draw curious eyes closer when events are going on inside.

There’s no telling exactly what those events will be, and that was part of the plan.

The main expo area spans 227,000 square feet but can be divided into three separate 43,000-square-foot spaces, meaning three different features can be hosted simultaneously.

The second-story terrace gives Resch Expo versatility and continues the lower-level’s merger of indoor and outdoor accessibility. Charles Collier Photo

Though the ceiling feels high, several beams have been placed, and as with most everything about Resch Expo, that was done for multiple purposes.

The trusses are built to support big league sound and light equipment for musical acts, though they can also be used creatively for any number of creative acts, such as suspending a recreational vehicle and broadcasting a radio show from above.

These beams were also built to meet USA Volleyball height regulations.

“Especially with youth sports, we can do just about anything,” Wachter said. “Volleyball, soccer, basketball tournaments, we’ve got it. This building could have a wedding one day and a boat show the next – or the same day.”

The flexibility and versatility will could be a boon for PMI’s and the region’s business in bidding for national tours, large trade shows, and anything in between.

“The biggest killer is always the transition time from one event to another,” said PMI Senior Vice President of Revenues and Operations Brad Foytik. “Bringing equipment in and out, cleaning up, and getting ready for another booking can be four or five days. Now we won’t have that problem of days where we literally can’t bring anything in because of the transition.”

The upper mezzanine of the space is built as an open walkway with places to sit down with concessions.

Taking in the views from the windows, the Resch Expo aims for both the feel of luxury and economy.

Resch Expo was built to amplify the luster of Lambeau Field from inside. The building is the only expo center in the nation to use storefront windows, and the only one next door to a National Football League stadium. Charles Collier Photo

“This is what we wanted to be front and center,” Wachter said, opening the second-story door to the outdoor terrace facing Lambeau Field. “Nobody else in the country can have this, so you bet that we want to show it off.”

The upper floor’s furnishings are all made by KI Furniture and were donated by the company’s chairman and local icon Dick Resch.

That puts the Green Bay community stamp on the project, but the goal is to also have the community make its own stamp.

Resch Expo melds indoor and outdoor amenities, allowing the huge windows to open up fully; including concession stands and beer taps with walk-up service.

“There are just so many possibilities that were impossible before, and are still impossible for a lot of other venues,” Foytik said. “To think that we did this all on the same footprint as Brown County Arena and Shopko Hall is still a little shocking to me. It’s pretty incredible.”

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