The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

Vernon and Shields say plan to upgrade U.S. Cellular Center and add convention center has best chance among local projects for securing U.S. Commerce Department grant

In City Hall on April 22, 2009 at 7:24 pm

The City Council last night endorsed a previously-announced decision by the city’s Five Seasons Facilities Commission to seek $39.2 million from the U.S. Department of Commerce to upgrade the U.S. Cellular Center and add a convention center to it.

The total cost of the U.S. Cellular Center improvements is estimated to be $52.25 million, and the Five Seasons Facilities Commission envisions securing $13 million in additional funds from the state of Iowa.

The U.S. Cellular Center is one of several local projects seeking disaster relief from the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration. The council has endorsed all of them.

Last night, though, council members Monica Vernon and Justin Shields suggested that the city’s U.S. Cellular Center project may stand the best chance among local projects to win an Economic Development Administration grant because it meets the federal agency’s requirement that a project promote economic development.

Having a convention center that can attract conventions will help spur development in the downtown, Shields said.

Recently, the council prioritized the local projects seeking grant money and, in doing so, it said the top priority was a proposal to support the flood-damaged steam system that serves the downtown, industries nearby, the hospitals and Coe College.

Last night, council member Kris Gulick suggested that the council revisit how it prioritized projects.

  1. Cedar Rapids is trying to be a convention center? Good luck competing against Las Vegas, San Antonio, Phoenix, Chicago, New York, Miami, Orlando, …………………….

  2. DG, the Convention Center in Coralville does just fine, and pulls in enough conventions to stay afloat. Dubuque’s Convention Center does, as well.

    Cedar Rapids isn’t trying to be Vegas, or Phoenix, etc. It’s just good sense to have a real convention center in a city the size of Cedar Rapids. A small set of ballrooms just doesn’t cut it even for something as small as a Massage Therapy convention.

  3. Funny, just last evening I witnessed a convention hosted by Alliant Energy – no Massage Therapists to the best of my knoweldge – but the convention, really a regional trade show, was held in Dubuque with a combination of events held in a “new” building the Grand River Center, and a “new again” building, the Dubuque Star brewery. Perhaps there is a model for success there in utilizing the 5 seasons and the Vets Memorial building in tandem for different size and types of events.

    In the meantime, while Cedar Rapids sits idle with the “CULTURE OF DELAY”, Dubuque & others will land the type of events that actually contribute to the coffers of Hotel/Motel tax & Local Option sales tax accounts – and pay for projects and services that otherwise would fall on the shoulders of property tax payers. And that is exactly what one of the Key City’s economic development officals told me at dinner last night – with a smile on his face.

    And a tacit admission that Cedar Rapids paralysis is benefiting regional competitiors like Dubuque and others; and they might be ready to pick the low hanging fruit and convince employers to consildate their operations and/or relocate from the troubled Cedar Rapids to better, greener pastures. Employers for instance like, Alliant Energy and it’s inbound customer service operations.

    Regardless – In May the Grand Harbor get’s a TONY ROMA’s; and we get a SONIC.

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