If you’re an American who pays any attention to politics, you know that today the Democratic National Committee announced that the 2020 convention will take place in Milwaukee. Having lived and worked in Milwaukee for 10 years, between 2007 and 2016, two questions come to mind; where can they stage an event this large, and how can this city house everyone who will attend an event of this size? The answer to the first question is probably the Wisconsin Center, the largest exhibition hall in town. It’s a beautiful facility, that seemed to spend most of the time empty versus rented. That certainly will change now. As for hotel accommodations, there may be just enough available within walking distance of the Wisconsin Center, but by my estimation, it will be tight. You see, Wisconsinites have always prided themselves in keeping check on rampant development. For example, they voted down a government plan to fund the building of a railroad between Milwaukee, Madison, and Minneapolis, that would have brought thousands of jobs to the state, and spurred needed development up and down the line. What puzzles me is why would this Midwestern state and city compete for this event when they don’t have a plan or even the desire to do anything dramatic with the interest and money that this event will bring?
The other reason why Milwaukee was in the news today concerns the ongoing debate about what to do with the Mitchell Park Domes. You may not know that the Domes, erected between 1959 and 1967, were the world’s first conoidal domes. They are striking structures, with each of the three domes measuring 140 feet in diameter, and 85 feet high. These structures are used to house horticultural displays, managed by the Milwaukee County Parks System. Age, and the complex and expensive maintenance of the domes, has put these structures at risk of being taken down. Significant opposition to that idea is being led by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and from a majority of the citizens of the city. Today, The Milwaukee Public Museum’s consultant released a report that recommends that the Domes be dismantled, and that some shared facility be erected in its place. The recommendation mirrors that of the task force formed by Milwaukee County commissioners, which was announced this past December. I’ve visited both the Public Museum and the Domes several times, and I think they are both worth preserving. I would agree that the museum really needs to find a way to expand in size. It could be so much better if it were to modernize and spread out. Too many exhibits are either unseen in storage, or truncated due to space constraints. But the destruction of these conoidal domes would be a true loss for a city that really needs to differentiate itself with attractions that you will not find anywhere else.
What do you think should be done?