Monona Terrace celebrates 25 years, boasts economic impact downtown

The Monona Terrace is celebrating 25 years, as millions of visitors have gone through and contributed to the economy of Madison.
Published: Jul. 18, 2022 at 6:40 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 18, 2022 at 6:57 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The Monona Terrace is celebrating 25 years, as millions of visitors have gone through and contributed to the economy of Madison.

Since doors first opened July 18, 1997, the Monona Terrace says it has resulted in $697.5 million in economic activity for the community.

More than 16,000 events have been held, like the 41st American Society for Virology Meeting on Monday.

“The city’s small enough, I can get everything by foot,” said Grace Uwase, who is attending the convention from St. Louis. “I don’t mind eating all the ice cream because I’m walking it off.”

The 250,000-square-foot building famously designed by Frank Lloyd Wright overlooks Lake Monona. Jason Ilstrup, president of Downtown Madison Inc., calls it an “anchor” for the downtown area.

“What’s hugely important is how much impact that the tourists particularly have on Downtown Madison,” Ilstrup said. “Pre-pandemic tourism’s economy was a $300 million a year industry just in downtown. That’s 4,500 employees in downtown, and so much of that is the conferences and the events that are happening here at the Monona Terrace.”

The Terrace did hurt during the COVID-19 pandemic, closing down for a time. In 2020 and 2021 combined, the number of conventions even dropped to 23, according to Kristen Durst, community and public relations manager. By comparison, the Monona Terrace hosted 60 conventions in 2019 alone.

Now in “rebounding” mode, Durst projects a 150% increase in events this year, compared to last year.

Durst also said the center hopes to move further into the future with an expansion project “when the time is right, when the finances are there.”

Besides catalyzing the economy, the Monona Terrace was created to attract tourists and gather the community.

Saturday, a free community celebration will mark the building’s 25th birthday. After live music and dance performances, the night will end with a drone show.

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