Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Walk-O-Meter

Reopen tourism visitor centers closed under Gov. Jim Doyle


Will "use my experience as (Milwaukee) County Executive to work with the private sector to reopen these centers and make them self-sufficient. During my tenure, we were able to partner with the private sector to increase support for our parks and attractions."


Subjects: Recreation

Updates

All are back in operation

According to the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, the state's welcome centers are open for business under Gov. Scott Walker.

Walker's predecessor, Democrat Gov. Jim Doyle, had moved in 2009 to close eight state welcome centers as a budget-saving measure.

During the 2010 gubernatorial campaign, Republican Walker promised to reopen them.

As it turns out, not all eight were completely shut down -- but now eight (or nine, depending on how you count) are all up and running.

According to Lisa Marshall, spokeswoman for the Department of Tourism:

In September 2010, the Department of Tourism stopped operating and staffing eight welcome centers.

Three centers -- Beloit, La Crosse and Hudson -- were actually shuttered.

Initially, Beloit and La Crosse moved from rest areas along highways to nearby retail locations, but later they reopened back in the rest areas. Hudson was replaced by a center in Menomonie that opened in December 2012.

Welcome centers in Kieler, Kenosha and Marinette never shut down. But the Kieler center is now run by the Platteville chamber; the local convention and tourism bureau took over the Kenosha center; and the city runs the Marinette center.

The Superior welcome center moved to the Bong Heritage Center and is run by the local convention and visitors bureau.

Marshall said a welcome center in Hurley, operated by the local chamber of commerce, is not actually a Travel Wisconsin Center.

On the other hand, Prairie du Chien, which the stated stopped operating in 2010, is run by the local chamber and is considered a Travel Wisconsin Center, Marshall said.

Given that Walker, as a candidate for governor, said he would reopen welcome centers that were to be closed, we rate this a Promise Kept.

Sources:

Wisconsin Department of Tourism, 2011 annual report

Email interview, Wisconsin Department of Tourism communications director Lisa Marshall, Dec. 18, 2012

TravelWisconsin.com, Directory of Wisconsin Information Centers

Some back in business, others in the works

As a candidate, Scott Walker said he would reverse a decision made in 2009 by his predecessor Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle and reopen the state"s tourism Welcome Centers.

The eight centers, which distributed brochures and other materials to visitors entering the state, were closed as budget-cutting move, for a savings of $1.2 million. The closed centers were in or near Beloit, Hudson, Hurley, Kenosha, Kieler, La Crosse, Marinette and Superior.

In closing the facilities, it was noted that the number of visits to the centers was declining because more travelers were getting information from the Internet.  

Walker said he would  "use my experience as (Milwaukee) County Executive to work with the private sector to reopen these centers and make them self-sufficient."

Last summer, three of the centers were re-opened -- in Beloit, La Crosse and Kenosha -- and will be operated by local convention and visitors bureaus.

Walker spokesman Cullen Werwire said officials with the Department of Tourism recently met with local and tribal leaders to discuss the reopening of the center in Hudson, a busy gateway to Wisconsin from Minnesota.

In making his promise, Walker certainly indicated he would reopen all of the Welcome Centers. He has made progress. Thus we put this one at In the Works.

Sources:

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "State re-opens visitor center in Beloit,”  July 18, 2011

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Walker calls for reopening tourism centers,”  Oct. 14, 2010

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Governor proposes closing tourism welcome centers,” Feb. 26, 2009

Emails Cullen Werwie, spokesman for Gov. Scott Walker, Jan. 4, 2011