By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – Leaders from throughout the area, including Gov. Tony Evers, gathered for a ceremonial groundbreaking event Tuesday, June 28, to commemorate the start of construction for the long-anticipated Discover Green Bay Visitors Center.
Plans for the new visitors center, which will be located on the corner of Lombardi Avenue and Argonne Drive adjacent to Cabela’s in Ashwaubenon, were first announced in 2018.
Discover Green Bay CEO Brad Toll said the road to the groundbreaking has been a long road with many twists and turns.
“As we were getting close to securing support from the state, COVID hit,” Toll said. “We had a lot of challenges, but a world pandemic? Seriously?”
Cameron Teske, Discover Green Bay vice president of visitor experience, said the continued support from the community has helped the project along the way.
“It’s been a long road,” Teske said. “But with vast community support from the Oneida Nation, Brown County, the State of Wisconsin and many more, this dream that started even before my time here, has finally become a reality. It will make a great impact on our community.”
Teske said though the Green Bay region has been a major destination hub in the State of Wisconsin for many years, it has never had a stand-alone visitors center to welcome travelers to the region.
Over the years, Discover Green Bay, formerly known as the Green Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau, has called many venues home.
In years prior, it was housed in the former Brown County Veterans Memorial Arena where a wall of brochures sufficed as the visitor center.
Most recently, the organization opened a temporary visitor center in the former Imperial Supplies building at 789 Armed Forces Dr. in anticipation of a new center.
Teske said the impact of a visitors center, especially in destinations the size of the Greater Green Bay area, has great economic value.
“Despite living in a digital communication world, there is no replacing face-to-face conversations and personal recommendations by local experts,” he said. “In the travel and tourism industry we thrive to increase high-value touch points and we have a lot of them with our visitors before they arrive. Now we have a place and a tool to have high-value conversations when visitors are in the market, in person.”
The $8 million project was funded in part by private donations and a $2.5 million grant from the Tourism Capital Investment Grant Program, which is part of the state’s COVID-19 relief fund.
Evers said all 72 counties reported double-digit growth over 2020.
“Here in Brown County, that translated to more than one billion dollars in total business sales,” he said.
Evers says Brown County visitor spending supports 9,800 jobs and contributes more than $86 million in state and local tax revenue.
He said supporting a new visitor space in the Green Bay area makes sense.
“This new center will help showcase all that greater Green Bay has to offer, and I could not be any more excited as we break ground on this (project),” Evers said. “So the bottom line is this wouldn’t have been possible without so many of the great people here today who jumped over every hurdle, built community consensus, connected with our office and found the great, great location. This is a result of all that hard work.”
Teske said construction will start in August, with a goal of completion by Green Bay Packers training camp 2023.
“We’re now looking forward to welcoming football fans here in 2023 for training next year,” Teske said.
Evers was joined at the groundbreaking by Oneida Nation Vice Chairman Brandon Yellowbird-Stevens, Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach, area state representatives, Brown County supervisors, Village of Ashwaubenon officials and Discover Green Bay officials.