- July 1938 – A naval armory and civic building – housing city and county offices –
is approved by the Madison City Council for Conklin Park(now James Madison Park).
Dane County Board rejects the plan.
- November 1938 – Frank Lloyd Wright unveils his ``dream civic center'' on Lake Monona, which
combines city and county offices, an auditorium and a boat facility. April 1941 – City voters
approve, by a 2-to-1 ratio, two referenda to construct a $750,000 municipal auditorium.
- June 1941 – A modified version of Wright's plan, amended to include courts, detention
facilities, a train depot, outdoor music shell and multi-level parking, is revealed. Plan is put
on hold by U.S. entrance into World War II.
- July 1949 – The Madison Metropolitan War Memorial Association recommends building an
auditorium, a theater, youth center and a boat harbor that would serve as a shrine, but bickering
on the City Council dooms the memorial.
- April 1952 – Voters approve a $3 million referendum to build a city hall.
- June 1953 – Council creates an auditorium committee. There is renewed interest in Wright's
- December 1953 – The city and county approve preliminary plans for a joint City-County
Building designed by a Chicago architecture firm.
- November 1954 – Voters approve a $4 million auditorium and civic center by Wright at
- June 1955 – The plan, which no longer includes city or county offices, courtrooms or jails,
is stalled by request that Public Service Commission determine whether it has jurisdiction
over a building placed on or over Lake Monona. The PSC later decides it does not have jurisdiction.
- January 1956 – Attorney General Vernon Thomson asserts the center is unconstitutional because
it is on the lake.
- August 1956 – Courts uphold Madison's right to build the center, which is modified several
times. Opponents fight plan in the Legislature.
- January 1958 – Calls for a new referendum are thwarted.
- April 1959 – Wright dies in Arizona.
- May 1959 – Another lawsuit, dismissed two years later, is filed against construction on the
Lake Monona site.
- October 1960 – Another attempt to put the plan on the ballot is defeated.
- March 1961 – Project bids are opened and are higher than $5.5 million.
- April 1962 – Voters approve referendum to terminate plans for an auditorium and civic center
at Monona Terrace and select an alternative site.
- May 1962 – Council votes to end contact with Taliesin, Wright's architecture group, leading
to a lawsuit.
- August 1962 – The city picks Conklin Park and the old water works (now Nichol Station) across
the street for an auditorium site.
- Summer 1965 – A 15-hour marathon meeting concludes with the Wright group agreeing to settle
- November 1965 – Auditorium committee reduces list of sites to three: Olin Park, Law Park, and
James Madison or Conklin Park.
- December 1965 – Building balance from 1954 borrowing is down to $3.5million.
- Winter 1966 – Of four civic center sites, an East Wilson Street location is favored. Council
supports incorporating auditorium and civic center projects into development plan on Lake Monona.
- October 1966 – A contract is signed with the Wright group (Taliesin Associated Architects) to
develop the Lake Monona plan. A unsuccessful lawsuit is filed to stop project.
- December 1967 – Taliesin architects unveil a plan known as Monona Basin, covering 145 acres
from B.B. Clarke Beach to Olin Park. The council accepts the plan.
- April 1969 – Bids are high, and the council votes to retool the plan.
- April 1970 – A new auditorium committee is formed the same month the Plan Department calls for
a Downtown auditorium complex.
- February 1972 – Council votes down plans for a Downtown auditorium.
- November 1973 – Auditorium committee votes for Monona Terrace site, but a referendum is
defeated the following year.
- May 1974 – The city begins plans to purchase the Capitol Theater on State Street for a civic
- July 1974 – The city buys the theater for $650,000. A lawsuit filed to stop the purchase is
dismissed a month later.
- May 1980 – The Madison Civic Center opens.
- Fall 1985 – City begins work on new Downtown convention center plan.
- April 1986 – A study shows a need for Downtown meeting and exhibit space.The site at the
Downtown MATC campus is briefly considered.
- February 1987 – City examines Blocks 88 and 89 as convention center sites. Block 88 is the
Madison Municipal Building and Block 89 is where the current Urban Land Interest development is
occurring on the Capitol Square.
- February 1988 – Jerry Mullins offers to build a hotel in Block 89 at no cost to the city if
a convention center is built on Block 88. Deal cannot be put together without a subsidy.
- September 1988 – City selects the Munz-Mullins Development Team to design a lakefront
- April 1989 – Voters reject the $46 million Nolen Terrace Convention Center. Paul Soglin is
elected mayor and appoints a Convention Center Task Force to evaluate such a project Downtown.
- August 1990 – Mayor Paul Soglin appoints a commission to study building a convention center
based on Wright's design at Olin Terrace.
- August 1991 – Commission recommends that the city build a center with help from the county
- November 1992 – City voters approve Monona Terrace Convention Center and the borrowing of
$12 million for the project.
- March 1993 – County Board approves agreement and $12 million in funding.
- December 1993 – City Council votes to hire Stein and Co. of Chicago and J.H. Findorff & Son
of Madison to manage construction on the center.
- June 1994 – The state Department of Natural Resources approves center plans.
- August 1994 – State Building Commission approves construction of $15.1million, 560-stall
parking ramp attached to the center.
- October 1994 – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gives its OK to the project.
- November 1994 – City Council gives its final approval for construction.
- 1994-1996 – Four lawsuits are filed by Shoreline Park Preservation, an organization created
to oppose lakeshore construction, challenging the Convention Center on several grounds. Three
suits were filed in Dane County court against various state agencies, the fourth was filed in
federal court against the Army Corps of Engineers. The last suit was dismissed in late 1996,
clearing all legal challenges to the building.
- December 1994 – Construction begins.
- July 1997 – Monona Terrace Convention Center opens.