Gilbane | Smith Completes $456M Expansion of Baird Center in Milwaukee

by Hayden Spiess

MILWAUKEE — General contractor Gilbane | Smith has completed a $456 million expansion of the Baird Center in Milwaukee. Originally opened in 1998, the Baird Center is the largest convention center in the state of Wisconsin. Gilbane | Smith completed the project on behalf of Wisconsin Center District, which owns and operates the center. Project partners and city officials celebrated the grand opening Thursday, May 16, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Spanning two blocks, the expansion brings the facility to 1.3 million square feet, doubling the original size of the property. The expansion features a new grand entrance oriented toward the Deer District mixed-use development and extends the exhibition hall, bringing the latter to 300,000 square feet. Additionally, the redevelopment increases the number of meeting rooms from 28 to 52, adds more than 400 enclosed parking spaces and brings the number of loading docks to 22 from the original 16. 

The project also included the addition of all-gender restrooms, dedicated quiet rooms, lactation spaces, sensory rooms and a rooftop ballroom and terrace. 

Design firm Henderson Engineers, a division of Henderson Cos., served as the engineer of record on the project, providing audio-video, electrical, energy modeling, fire and life safety, mechanical, plumbing, technology and security work. Henderson partnered with BCL Enterprise, DK-39, IBC Engineering, Oneida Total Integrated Enterprises and Pro Audio Systems to complete more than 30 percent of the work.

“Flexibility is a priority for modern convention centers as these facilities are increasingly focused on serving multiple functions at once, rather than the traditional approach of mainly booking large, single exhibitions,” says Russ Murdock, convention center practice director with Henderson. “This expansion gives the Baird Center the ability to seamlessly run multiple shows and events at the same time…providing them the opportunity to utilize the building’s footprint to its full potential.”

The project added a variety of sustainability measures to meet LEED Silver green-building standards, including a solar roof, low-flow plumbing fixtures and LED lighting. 

— Hayden Spiess

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