Tourism brings big bucks into Brown County


BROWN COUNTY - The Wisconsin Department of Tourism says the state has seen a huge economic impact from visitors in 2013. Tourists spent $10.4 billion.

More than 5 million people visited Brown County last year.

"I'm really pleased with the numbers and I think they're going to grow even more and we'll be moving up another county when it comes to tourism," said Mayor of Green Bay Jim Schmitt.

The county ranks fifth in the state for visitor spending.

Last year visitors spent nearly $560 million. That's a 1.3 percent increase from 2012.

Local tourism officials say the industry continues to grow.

"A visitor doesn't come to a community because they want to say in a hotel. You have to give them reasons to come to your community," said Greater Green Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau President Brad Toll.

So what's actually bringing people into Brown County? One of the first things you might automatically think of is Lambeau Field. The Packers organization is working on a brand new hall of fame.

Toll says it's not just going to bring in new visitors; it's also going to bring in people who already live in the area.

"Resch Center, the Weidner Center, the Meyer Theatre, they're all producing events that are fun for residents but they're also of interest to visitors," Toll said.

The Resch is home to the WIAA Girls Basketball Tournament for the next six years. This year's event brought in thousands of people and pumped an estimated $3 million into the local economy.

Another attraction for visitors is the reasonably priced Bay Beach Amusement Park.

"Our tickets are still a quarter," said facilities manager Tina Westergaard.

The newest attraction, the Sea Dragon, is bringing more people to the park. But the facilities manager says it's the history of Bay Beach that keeps people coming back.

"We are the ninth oldest continuously operated amusement park in the United States and we're tied 21st in the world. That's quite an accomplishment for a municipally owned amusement park and there are very few of those left," Westergaard said.

The new zip line and rope course opening May 7 at the NEW Zoo in Suamico is another attraction the area hopes will boost tourism.

The tourism industry also helped support more than 1,100 jobs in the county.