Sports Milwaukee – championed by VISIT Milwaukee – announced the return of youth volleyball to the Wisconsin Center in early March. As a month’s worth of weekend volleyball tournaments near their close, we checked in with the new division’s Director of Sports Development Marissa Werner to see how things were going.
Tournament Status Report
Wisconsin Juniors Volleyball Club hosted its Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Winter Classic the weekend of March 5-7. The following three weekends, it was Badger Region Volleyball Association’s time to take the court for its championships March 13-14, March 20-21, and March 27-28.
“For a bit of background on the significance of this, the same day that Wisconsin Juniors began its tournament was almost exactly a year after the Wisconsin Center began to cancel events while the city started shutdowns due to the pandemic,” Werner said. “I’m so happy we were able to work with our partners and clients to make these volleyball tournaments happen in Milwaukee.”
The Wisconsin Center District (WCD) and Sports Milwaukee worked with Wisconsin Juniors and Badger Region Volleyball to help them understand local pandemic safety requirements, guidelines and practices the WCD instituted to make the facility safe, and how the Wisconsin Center’s built-in features and flexibility could make a safe and successful event possible.
Additionally, the WCD worked closely with the Milwaukee Health Department on a detailed safety plan for these specific events. Those safety plans included capacity limits in the exhibit hall, spectator limits, social distancing, and restrictions on time spent in the facility before and after tournaments. Additionally, Wisconsin Center cleaning staff disinfected stations and shared spaces between tournaments in addition to disinfecting restrooms every 15 minutes.
“In essence, putting on these events took a lot of planning with the client as well as communication with the client and health officials to make sure that we were bringing sports back to the Wisconsin Center in the safest manner possible while still throwing a fun and successful event for participants,” Werner said.
Though some gentle notifications to athletes and spectators about the requirements were necessary throughout the tournaments, the events have been going well.
“Of course, staff had to deliver a few friendly reminders to guests such as keeping masks above their noses and continuing to move toward the exit when their tournaments ended,” Werner said. “However, overall, athletes and spectators were compliant with the safety plan, parents have shared their appreciation for the precautions taken, and we have not been informed of any COVID-19 cases to-date in relation to these tournaments.”
Wisconsin Juniors has an estimated economic impact of $1.8 million and 4,000 attendees over the weekend. Badger Region has an estimated economic impact of $1.8 million its first week, $1.6 million the second week, and about $1.3 million its third week. And Badger Region attendees range from 3,000 to 4,000 attendees each weekend.
What’s Next for the Brew City?
Though Sports Milwaukee had a soft kickoff in early 2020, the new division will complete its launch by early April this year.
“The Milwaukee area has some incredible wins in terms of booking national and international sporting events such as the Ryder Cup, the USA Triathlon, and more,” Werner said. “We’re continuing to build on that momentum, looking ahead to identify and obtain the next big wins for the city for many years to come. Our new Sports Milwaukee division will ensure we keep winning.”
As the director of sports development, Werner creates and leads this division focused solely on bringing sports business to the Greater Milwaukee area. Sports Milwaukee’s official launch will occur early in April, at which time the division’s formal name, branding, and website will be unveiled.
Sports Milwaukee is already managing several future events. A few of those sporting events include the 2021 Ryder Cup; 2021 and 2022 USA Triathlon; 2022 NCAA Men’s Basketball First/Second Rounds; 2022 USGA Youth Amateur Championships; and 2022 U.S. Olympic Speedskating Team Long Track Trials.
“Milwaukee is an attractive, affordable, sports city that would be an ideal host of a wide range of events,” Werner said. “Our city’s varied facilities are built for everything from baseball, volleyball, and hockey, to fencing, table tennis, speed-skating, and gymnastics. And in addition to first-class venues, our location on scenic Lake Michigan is the perfect backdrop for marathons, triathlons, and beach volleyball tournaments. Milwaukee is a sports event planner’s dream.”