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Republican National Committee tours Milwaukee as potential convention site

Buildings along the Milwaukee River at night, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Buildings along the Milwaukee River at night, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Milwaukee is one of three finalists in talks to host the Republican National Convention in 2024. On Thursday, Republican National Committee officials toured the city, along with former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinelreportsthat local organizers have told the committee that they have around $30 million in pledges and are planning to raise around $65 million to stage the event, which could lure up to 45,000 people.

Other finalists for hosting the convention are Nashville, Tennessee and Salt Lake City, Utah. A decision is expected by August.

Claire Koenig, the communication director at VIST Milwaukee, says Republicans did not request anything specific during their visit. "They had the questions typical of anyone planning a large event. Really, the site visit was typical of something that we would do for large events in a lot of ways," she says.

In 2020, the Democratic National Convention was set to be held in Milwaukee. But because of COVID-19, the convention ended up being mainly virtual. Events were scaled back dramatically, canceled or moved. It's reported that Milwaukee lost out on $200 million when the convention switched formats.

Since then, Koenig acknowledges the city has learned that it can't predict how the pandemic will go.

"I think we are all thinking about it differently than we did, say in 2019, thinking about the DNC. Obviously, the pandemic can happen. We're just not predicting any one certain thing for right now. I think it's we're just preparing for everything," she says.

Koenig says the Wisconsin Center expansion would be completed in time for the convention. She says other locations for potential convention activities did their best Thursday to show what they could offer.

"As far as [how] the site visit went — all of the venues, restaurants, hotels — they all put their best foot forward to welcome the committee and they did an amazing job," she says.

If Milwaukee hosts the Republican National Convention that could increase attention paid to the GOP presidential ticket in the battleground state of Wisconsin.

Koenig points out that there already are two Republican Party offices in the city. One is across from the new American Black Holocaust Museum, while the other is on 13th and Lincoln.

"They're trying to reach voters of color, so for the Republicans, that's certainly part of the strategy of Milwaukee. Visit Milwaukee is completely apolitical. We are looking at it purely [as] this is economically good for the community," says Koenig.

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