Democratic convention in Milwaukee has phones ringing in Port

Calls to local hotel are early indication that event could be a boon for city
Ozaukee Press staff

It didn’t take long after Monday’s announcement that Milwaukee would host the Democratic National Convention in 2020 that the phones at the Holiday Inn Harborview in downtown Port Washington started ringing.

“We’ve had lots of inquiries already,” General Manager Cathy Wilger said Tuesday. “I think it’s started and it will just continue. 

“Once they announce it (the convention), people know it’s time to get reservations.”

Wilger said she expected to book groups and individuals seeking rooms for the convention, which will run from July 13 to 16, 2020, adding the impact will likely be felt for longer than just those few days.

“There are some people who are looking for rooms for the week, and some who are looking for multiple weeks,” she said.

On Monday, Wilger said, one inquiry was from a media representative asking about rooms for three weeks.

Wilger speculated that the majority of the Harborview’s rooms that week will be filled with people heading to the convention, although she added, “We have people who come here on a regular basis, like business travelers, who we’ll take care of too.”

The hotel is likely to put together some “Welcome to Port Washington” specials for its convention guests, Wilger added.

“We’re all about getting people to experience Port Washington, so most definitely we will be doing something,” she said.

“We’re excited it (the convention) is going to be held in the area. It’ll be great for the whole area, not just the hotels and restaurants. This gives us an opportunity to showcase our city.”

While some people may think that Port Washington is a little too far out to benefit from convention traffic, Wilger isn’t one of them.

“I think they’ll be going even farther out,” she said.

Kathy Tank, executive director of the Port Washington Tourism Council, said the convention brings the potential for benefits beyond filling hotel and restaurants.

“This is huge,” she said. “I’m sure our hotel rooms will be filled.

“If Harleyfest fills our hotels and the PGA fills our hotels, this will definitely fill our hotels.”

Mayor Marty Becker and City Administrator Mark Grams concurred, saying the major impact of the convention will be seen in hotels and restaurants, although they added other activities may also be affected.

“You would think some people will take fishing charters while they’re here,” Becker said.

“You have to hope they’re not going to stay there (Milwaukee) for the full day,” Grams added. 

But the impact on other areas isn’t as clear cut, Tank said.

“This is a whole new ball game,” she said. She compared it to the first time the PGA tournament was held in Sheboygan County and businesses ramped up for the expected influx of people.

“When all was said and done, we had fewer people here during the day shopping and having lunch,” Tank said. Businesses experienced an increase in business at night, she said, but discovered that the tourists were spending their days at the golf course.

“No one really knows what the behavior  of the attendees will be,” she said. “It definitely bodes well for everyone — it’s just hard to predict what level of impact it will have.”

That’s especially true since there are expected to be about 1,500 public events related to the convention held in the Milwaukee area, Tank said.

She guessed that the delegates to the convention are likely to stay in spots closer to the convention center, while other groups, such as the media and people who may only want to attend a few sessions or hear a couple speakers at the convention may stay farther out.

Or, Tank said, some of those attending the convention may not want to spend all their time in Milwaukee and instead take time to visit outlying communities.

Port Washington is a member of the Visit Milwaukee convention and visitor center, which she expects will distribute visitor guides to people at the convention.

“We will be included in that, and we will push the fact we’re just a half-hour north of Milwaukee, right on Lake Michigan, with a beautiful, historic downtown,” she said. “We hope that people who have never been to fly-over country and see the lake will say, ‘This is really cool.’

“Not everybody wants to be in the midst of a big city with all the traffic all the time.”

People who take a few days before and after the convention to vacation are another potential audience for Port, Tank said.

“Let’s hope people coming to the convention are looking at the local news stations. We could get some people here just because of the weather cameras and the beautiful shots they have of Port,” she said.

“After all, this is going to be in July. We will be shining. The marina is going to be full. There are going to be people riding the bike trail. People will be sitting outside and eating. They’ll be fishing.

“For us, it couldn’t be a better time to showcase the city.”

Adding to the excitement, 2020 will also bring the Ryder Cup golf tournament to Whistling Straits in Haven in Sheboygan County, Tank said.

“That will be another big thing for the city,” she said. “It should be a good year for Port Washington and the area.”


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


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