Cedar Rapids looks to hire firm for new events center - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Cedar Rapids looks to hire firm for new events center

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CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL) - The U.S. Cellular Center is set to receive major renovations, and an expansion that would include a new convention center.

"this Cellular Center is very vital to this city, and that's why I am in full support of what we're going to be doing here," said city councilor Chuck Weineke in downtown on Monday, with other city and state lawmakers looking on. The city announced its plan to hire Frew Nations Group, to manage the construction of the $67-million facility. Once built, they hope it will boost economic development in Eastern Iowa.

Officials with the Downtown District say the project will not only bring millions more dollars in direct spending to the city, but also open doors for new businesses and services to enter the downtown area.

"Opportunity for additional restaurants and gathering places downtown," said Doug Neumann, Downtown District president. "Opportunities in market demand for a potential second hotel downtown."

The Cedar Rapids Area Convention and Visitor's Bureau says the center will fill in pieces of the community's business puzzle, that have gone missing in recent years.

"We never had large enough facilities that actually could accommodate those," said director Marilee Fowler.

The city is still seeking a grant for the project from the U.S. Economic Development Authority. The hope is that hiring a construction firm will send the EDA a message that Cedar Rapids is committed to the new center.

"It's going to help this city, it's going to help the taxpayers, and therefore it's going to be helping all of those affected by the flood," explained Weineke.

John Frew, one of the firm's executives, says the Frew Nations Group has built other event centers, which have spurred development. As an example, he mentioned one in Broomfield, Colorado, which started out as an empty 200-acre patch of ground.

"There's about 16-hundred apartments and condos, and there's a whole hotel," said Frew.

The project would take about 30 months to complete. The Cedar Rapids City Council is expected to approve a contract with Frew Nations Group, at their meeting Tuesday night.

Online Reporter - Brady Smith

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