Appleton wants to buy county land for exhibition center

Outagamie lot

APPLETON - For years city leaders in Appleton have been looking into building an exhibition center. The city, along with private contributors, is trying to put up a $28 million facility. They believe it's an investment that will bring more tourism dollars into the area.

The plan is to build the center behind the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel in what is now an Outagamie County-owned parking lot.

Appleton Mayor Tim Hanna has said a downtown exhibition center would bring more than $6.5 million into the city a year.

"This would really help all of downtown and the small businesses we have," Hanna explained.
Hanna told FOX 11 it would help Outagamie County too.

County Executive Tom Nelson told us it sounds like a pretty good idea, but the county is not a partner in the project.

"Our role in this is the simple fact they want our land and we have invested a lot of money into this piece of land," Nelson explained.

According to Nelson, the land's market value is about $900,000. The city is offering to buy it for about $2 million.

But Nelson told us it is about more than just the money.

"We have to make very sure that we have any type of space, security, parking needs fully accounted for," he explained, saying the lot is important for county business.

"We're trying to make up for the 103 spaces that are there. So we do that by assigning current on-street parking as county-use only," Hanna explained.

As part of the city's offer, Outagamie County would also get a smaller parking lot on Walnut Street.

"Together we add up to about 105 additional spaces," added Hanna.

Hanna told us the city is just starting a long-term parking analysis, but he said the county is looking for a permanent solution now.

For the deal to go through, first the county's property committee would need to approve any agreement, then it would go to the full county board. Any decision could still be months away.

Hanna told us if the county rejects the sale, the city would consider other locations.

Hanna also said the exhibition center itself wouldn't necessarily bring a lot more cars downtown at one time. He said the point of the center would be to bring conventions and trade shows to town more often.