If you’ve considered Madison as a meeting destination, you’re likely aware it’s home to five lakes. A Frank Lloyd Wright-designed convention center. And, of course, the chance to try cheese curds. 

In case you missed it, PCMA’s Convene magazine recently recognized Madison as “A unique blend of natural beauty and urban sophistication, making it a standout destination for business events,” citing the Monona Terrace Community & Convention Center and Alliant Energy Center as aspirational meeting spaces. 

While it’s true these venues are rated highly when it comes to sustainability and flexibility, there’s more to the story. Madison wins on behind-the-scenes strengths. The ones that go beyond square footage or coffee prices or total number of hotel rooms. The unexpected specs that inspire groups to return again and again. 

Unexpected Specs #1: Accessible Airlift

Every day, we’re working behind the scenes to make it easier to meet in Madison. In 2023, our airport (MSN) opened a new 90,000-square-foot wing that added three gates to help facilitate 17 daily direct flights to cities including Atlanta, Denver, Washington D.C. and New York City.  

Once here, the drive to our downtown convention centers is an easy breezy 12 minutes.  

Unexpected Specs #2: MVPs at A/V 

Monona Terrace is well-known for its state-of-the-art, high-end A/V suite of services—and the onsite support its in-house tech staff provides. 

“You would have never guessed our hybrid setup was newer territory based on how well Monona Terrace executed our multifaceted plan with numerous moving parts,” says Greg Young, CIO for Uniform Law Commission. “I received many compliments about how well this meeting was technically executed in the face of overwhelming unease venturing into areas we have not tried previously. This was the best event execution experience I have had in my years of doing this.“ 

That was in 2021. And Monona Terrace continues to upgrade and improve its offerings. In 2024, the facility is prioritizing a complete upgrade of the wireless network and infrastructure to flawlessly support each client’s boldest visions. 

Unexpected Specs #3: Green behind the scenes

Monona Terrace is a LEED Platinum Level “green building,” which is the highest level achievable—and means that sustainability is at the forefront of everything that happens, from lakefront to rooftop. When planners select Monona Terrace as a venue, they get built-in energy savings plus behind-the-scenes best practices that some venues are only starting to consider.  

“Our customers are pleased to learn that our in-house caterer, Monona Catering, uses china dishes and napkins for the majority of our events,” says Executive Director Connie Thompson. “Locally sourced foods are also prominently featured on our menus.”  

But there’s more to know: Monona Terrace partners with a local composting service to divert more than 35,000 pounds of organic kitchen waste from landfills annually. The organic materials are then recycled into a nutrient-rich soil amendment used by area farmers. Each year, it donates an average of 5,500 pounds of food to local food pantries. And its rooftop garden features 6,800 square feet of native prairie plantings that conserve water, attract important pollinators, and are used to reseed other City of Madison green spaces. 

At the nearby Alliant Energy Center, it’s hard to miss Willow Island: 29 acres of green space that is a flexible and accessible solution for hosting sustainably-minded events. It’s a factor that made Alliant Energy Center one of the largest organizations in Madison to receive a Travel Green certification. Less obvious, but just as impactful: a partnership with Johnson Controls to implement energy-saving measures like energy-efficient lighting in the Exhibition Hall, and New Holland Pavilion solar panels that power the capital city grid.