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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, April 17, 2014

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In Milwaukee Buzz Commentary

It won't be the Delta Center for much longer.

Running out of names for the convention center


By now, you might have heard that Delta Air Lines is giving up its exclusive advertising rights agreement with the Downtown Milwaukee convention center that bears its name.

No, I don't mean the Midwest Express Center.

A friend actually still refers to the convention center – named Delta Center since September 2012 – as the "Midwest Center" even though it's long been changed.

Many Milwaukee residents who have probably attended numerous events or conventions at the center over the years would be hard-pressed to recall what name was on the side of the building at the time.

Just to refresh things: It was the Midwest Express Center when it opened to great acclaim and spectacle in 1998, then changed to the Midwest Airlines Center when the airline underwent management changes.

The instability of the airline industry and changing availability of routes and service at Milwaukee's main airport led to Midwest getting purchased in 2009 by Republic Airways, which led to the creation of Frontier Airlines and the subsequent name change of the center to reflect that.

Still with us?

Delta came just a year ago, which is why the Wednesday announcement about another looming name change was probably a surprise to anyone who saw news reports in February of this year about how signage both outside and inside the center was finally getting changed to Delta.

Now, looks like they'll just have to change things again. Seems to me, the best employment contract in town is the one to change the signage at the convention center because it's regular business.

City officials downplayed the move by Delta as a result of the company wanting to concentrate more on other airline markets where they have more presence than at Mitchell Airport. Wisconsin Center District officials who operate the convention center, U.S. Cellular Arena and Milwaukee Theatre Downtown told media that a variety of sponsors are being lined up for future sponsorship opportunities. But district officials also moved to quickly change the name to the Wisconsin Center on July 1.

Naming rights are lucrative streams of income for any entity but naming the city's main convention is about more than just money, it's about image as well. For the downtown convention center to have experienced such high turnover in naming rights in recent years could be a troubling sign that some big companies are not just reluctant to support the center but maybe also not the city.

That's why it might be time to do some creative thinking to establish a more permanent name for Milwaukee's convention and tourist industry that doesn't change every other year or so.

After all, we're running out of airlines.


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