Convention center milestones prior to 2013
December 31, 1999
Convention center Phase II opens.
July 24-26, 1998
Convention center Phase I Grand Opening includes a Community Open House exhibition and a memorable black-tie gala.
February 19, 1997
Novel naming-rights agreement – the first for a convention facility – renames Wisconsin Center “Midwest Express Center.” Corporate mergers, etc., cause several name changes before agreements expire and name reverts to “Wisconsin Center” in 2013.
February 14, 1996
Wisconsin Center groundbreaking ceremony held.
November 22, 1995
Agreement between the Wisconsin Center District (WCD) and City of Milwaukee transfers MECCA assets to WCD, allowing it to issue bonds for the Wisconsin Center. The City pledges funds for deferred Arena improvements. The MECCA name passes into history.
Wisconsin State Legislature votes to create a new special-purpose district to fund, plan, build and operate a new convention facility in Milwaukee called the Wisconsin Center. Governor Tommy G. Thompson signs legislation at a Milwaukee Exposition & Convention Center & Arena (MECCA) ceremony.
Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce’s independent study recommends expanding Milwaukee’s convention facilities.
Hyatt Regency-Milwaukee opens across 4th Street from MECCA Convention Hall. No new hotel rooms are opened downtown after this until the late 1990s, after the Wisconsin Center opens.
May 24-26, 1974
New $15 million convention center opens. Milwaukee Arena and Auditorium are merged with new center to create convention and entertainment complex called MECCA – the Milwaukee Exposition & Convention Center & Arena.
April 9-15, 1950
Milwaukee Arena opening celebration held amid week-long, city-wide “Progress Week.” Milwaukee Auditorium and Arena function as Milwaukee’s primary convention and trade show facilities for the next 24 years.
September 21, 1909
Multi-purpose Milwaukee Auditorium, built to replace the burned-down Industrial Exposition Building, is dedicated.
September 6, 1881
Industrial Exposition Building, a forerunner of the modern convention center, opens on land that would later host the Milwaukee Auditorium. The building hosts trade gatherings, public expositions and civic and cultural events.
Native American communities regularly gather to trade, politic, and socialize near where the Milwaukee, Menomonee and Kinnickinnic Rivers flow into Lake Michigan.