MADISON, Wis. — Lawmakers on the Wisconsin Legislature’s budget-writing committee have approved spending state money to help host the NFL Draft when it comes to Green Bay in 2025.
Two Republican lawmakers from the Green Bay area got exactly what they wanted. State Sen. Robert Cowles and State Rep. David Steffen asked for $2 million in funding to help put on the major three-day event, which the Green Bay Chamber of Commerce estimates could bring in $94 million in economic impact for Wisconsin.
The Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee voted Thursday evening to increase funding for tourism marketing by $20 million.
“I’m happy that we are giving the Department of Tourism the flexibility, with a continuing appropriation, to spend this onetime money over whatever period of time it takes for them to invest as wisely as possible,” State Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, said ahead of Thursday vote.
A new $10 million fund to help attract major events to the Badger State was also approved.
“Whether it’s the NFL Draft, whether it’s the RNC, or things that are beyond what we even know are available right now, so that’s why I’m so thankful that we are moving forward,” State Sen. Joan Ballweg, R-Markesan, said.
The vote came along party lines, with all Republicans in favor of the tourism funding package. Though Democrats voted against the GOP plan, it wasn’t because they were opposed to the spending. Their plan also included a $2 million investment to support the NFL Draft.
“Those dollars can be used to ensure that when the 2025 NFL Draft comes to Lambeau in Green Bay that there are dollars to put in a state share to ensure that is a successful event, [that] when we’re on a national stage we are promoting Wisconsin appropriately,” State Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, said of the motion.
To achieve that, Democrats wanted to put more of the surplus dollars toward tourism.
“If Wisconsin is going to be seen as the premiere state that it is, we are going to have to put our money where our mouth is,” State Sen. LaTonya Johnson, D-Milwaukee, explained. “We are going to have to showcase what the state has to offer, and what better way to do that than to add additional dollars.”
The estimated cost to host the draft is $7.5 million, with the Packers pledging $1 million. Another $4.5 million will come from local funding, which lawmakers said likely will be in the form of corporate sponsors and community partners donations, as well as money from stadium district. The remaining gap would be filled in by the $2 million contribution from the state.
State funds would likely be used to help the city offset costs that it was unable to budget for when it comes to hosting an event of such a large size, including extra law enforcement and public works spending on barriers and other security measures.
As part of the funding package approved Thursday, Visit Milwaukee will also get $10 million in one-time tourism funding as the city prepares to host the Republican National Convention next year.
The tourism funds and local grants to Green Bay and Milwaukee will become a part of the overall two-year budget bill, which needs approval from the full Legislature. The vote could happen as soon as this month. After clearing the Assembly and Senate, the bill will also need to be signed into law by Gov. Tony Evers.