October 7, 2020

Ashwaubenon venue has a 'wow' factor and stayed on track amid COVID-19

Green Bay Press-Gazette story

Inside Resch Expo: Why the $93 million Ashwaubenon venue has a 'wow' factor and stayed on track amid COVID-19

Jeff Bollier

Green Bay Press-Gazette

ASHWAUBENON - Visitors who tour the new Resch Expo hall often react in one of two ways.

Some scan the 125,000-square-foot main exhibit hall and note the massive building looks even bigger from inside. The next most common reaction is an awed "Wow," said Brad Foytik, senior vice president of revenues and operations for Resch Expo and Resch Center operator PMI Entertainment Group.

The reactions are understandable. With more than 150,000 square feet of event space outside, on the ground floor and in the second-floor atrium, Resch Expo dwarfs its predecessors, Shopko Hall and the Brown County Veterans Memorial Arena. Both were demolished in 2019, two years after the county approved building the $93 million Resch Expo. 

The new venue's main hall has the equivalent space of three Shopko Halls.

Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach is among those wowed by the results, so far.

"It looks exactly how we envisioned it," Streckenbach said. "It's got a wow factor. It's doing exactly what we wanted it to do: be a centerpiece that complements Lambeau Field."

Foytik’s giving more tours of Resch Expo to prospective event organizers now that the exhibit hall, atrium area, meeting suites, glass entryways, concession areas and exterior plaza have taken shape.

There is a lot of interest, he said, even though Green Bay-area tourism officials say expo and trade show organizers continue to reschedule and postpone events in response to the coronavirus pandemic.  

Groups that were considering Resch Expo for a 2021 event are now looking at it for 2022, said Beth Ulatowski, director of destination sales and service at the Greater Green Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau. 

The venue’s design, specifically the column-less main floor, does open up new business for the Visitors Bureau to pursue. 

The view of Lambeau Field from the Resch Expo's atrium windows on Oct. 7, 2020.

“It’s really exciting to be able to go after business we never have had the opportunity to pursue before,” Ulatowski said. “I think it brings a lot of new opportunities for the city and we’re excited about that.”

County leaders, who will pay for the expo hall using a combination of hotel room tax and a half-percent county sales tax, understand the venue might not roar to life immediately upon completion, Streckenbach said.

"We knew the first half (of 2021) would not necessarily be busy and that it might be the second half of 2021, if not 2022, before we get some of those larger events," he said. "Overall, I think we're in a good spot."

That doesn’t mean Resch Expo will sit empty all of next year. Quite the contrary.

Blue Green Events, a PMI subsidiary, is moving forward with plans to host events including the Green Bay Boat Show, the Green Bay RV & Camping Expo and the Wedding Show in Resch Expo in 2021. 

“We’re proceeding with events in January, February and March,” Foytik said. “We do have bookings in this building already for 2021.”

The pending events made keeping construction on track all that much more important. 

The building’s large, open spaces enabled crews to work on different parts of the building with limited interaction to avoid spreading COVID-19, said Ben Samolinski, Miron Construction’s project manager for Resch Expo.

The result:  

  • Back-of-the-house spaces like the kitchen, hallways, green rooms, storage areas and connections between Resch Expo and Resch Center are 95% complete. 
  • The first section of the building, essentially the first-floor spaces, should be completed by the end of October. 
  • Mechanical systems as well as the building’s glass, brick and wood facade should be completed by the end of November. 
  • Spaces for technology like video displays and the large, exterior LED video board are taking shape, including a section of wall and interactive display panel dedicated to the site’s history honoring Brown County veterans. And
  • The venue’s outdoor plaza has grown from more than 30,000 square feet to 93,000 square feet of event space and now includes concession areas and a small grassy area striped like a football field. 
The balcony of the Resch Expo with a view of Ray Nitschke Field on Oct. 7, 2020, in Ashwaubenon, Wis.

In short, construction is on track to finish in January 2021, on schedule and within the project’s $93 million budget, Streckenbach said. 

“When you have a project of this size and magnitude with so many different variables, we always hope they come in under budget,” he said. “Then throw in COVID and we weren’t sure how that would impact the project. … Everything’s where we’d like it to be.”

Everything is where Foytik and the PMI staff would like it to be, too. 

Foytik noted engineers and architects incorporated PMI’s suggestions to make operating both Resch Expo and the Resch Center arena more convenient. 

The two buildings now have joint access to a larger kitchen, centralized employee/vendor check-in areas, green rooms for performers, equipment storage and technology storage. Event attendees may never see any of that, but Foytik said the efficiencies will make a difference.