MILWAUKEE — The return of Milwaukee's lakefront events generated a major economic boost during the month of July.
According to Milwaukee County Parks, the July 3 lakefront fires, RedBull FlugTag, and the Milwaukee Air and Water Show, brought in nearly 153,000 people to the lakefront. Of those visitors, 37% were coming from outside of Milwaukee County. VISIT Milwaukee says those events generated over $3.2 million in direct and indirect spending.
The lakefront is expected to further boost the local economy this weekend. The USA Triathlon National Championships will return on Saturday and Sunday. The event is expected to bring in 6,000 athletes and a $6.2 million economic impact.
“The benefits of parks can’t just be measured in dollars as they bring communities together, improve wellness and protect our environment," Guy Smith, executive director of Milwaukee County Parks, said. "But as these numbers show, our park system is also an important contributor to the economic health of the region.”
In 2021, 35% of Milwaukee County Parks' 12 million visitors were from outside the county, park officials say. Twelve percent of visitors were from outside of Wisconsin.
“Our parks have been a major draw for visitors to Milwaukee ever since they were created in the 1890’s, however, public funding for the park system currently only comes from local property taxes," Jeremy Lucas, director of administration and planning for Milwaukee County Parks, said. "This means county residents contribute to the upkeep of parks through taxes, but non-county visitors only contribute through direct spending, such as event parking and concessions sales.”
According to park officials, state aid to local governments has decreased while costs of services have grown over the past decade. Without additional revenue, park officials say projections show Milwaukee County will face "a fiscal cliff in five years where there will be no funds available to dedicate to services not mandated by the state."
County Executive David Crowley helping the Parks Department is an important priority.
“Our Parks department is doing fantastic work with few resources to make sure our lakefront, trails, and neighborhood parks remain an accessible amenity for all of our residents. But, it is important to note that Milwaukee County government doesn’t have the tools to retain a portion of the economic activity we see when large events like this happen and reinvest those funds in important priorities like helping our Parks Department serve residents," Crowley said. “County amenities like our parks are what attract large-scale events that generate millions in revenue. That’s why we continue to work with our regional partners and partners at the State to explore how we can retain a portion of our economic activity here and reinvest those funds in meeting basic community needs. The economic health of our region, the jobs located here, are incumbent on a successful Milwaukee. This is a solution not only for Milwaukee County, but our surrounding counties as well.”
To learn more about Milwaukee County’s effort to raise additional revenue for local priorities like parks click here.