UPDATE: Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center sale approved - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

UPDATE: Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center sale approved

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UPDATE:  The sale of the Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center was approved at the Waterloo City Council meeting Monday night.  Four council members voted yes, while three abstained.

The convention center is being sold to Leslie Hospitality Company, based out of Omaha. 


Talks of a major face lift plan at a downtown convention center could soon be put into motion. The Waterloo City Council will be holding a public hearing and is expected to vote on the sale of the city-owned Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center to a private developer Monday night. 

Most recently, the City of Waterloo and private developer Leslie Hospitality Company proposed that the square block, where the Waterloo convention center resides, will be dedicated as Sullivan Brothers Plaza and incorporated into the convention center's new name as Waterloo Convention Center at Sullivan Brothers Plaza. Now that the Sullivan family, the City and the developer are on the same page for a new name, the city council could be giving the renovations one last green light. 

A look inside the 40-year-old building shows some work could help in restoring the center as a hub for activities in downtown Waterloo. A number of local businesses and city leaders have written positive letters in support of the sale ahead of tonight's meeting.

VGM Group CEO Mike Mallaro says they've hosted their annual Heartland Conference at the convention center for the past 16 years. Mallaro, who pointed to more than just curb appeal, says the center is long overdue for a face lift. 

"We've had to take a look the last couple years at moving it, because quite honestly the facilities downtown just weren't good enough," said Mallaro. 

Mallaro says they've had to spend thousands of dollars just to rent furniture and technology to make up for the lacking amenities. 

The letters written in support point to the centers deteriorating condition, that they say has been neglected. Chipped paint on the walls and the ceilings, noticeable water marks, and basic maintenance needs were just a few of the concerns listed. 

During last years Heartland conference, Mallaro says there was water and strips of paint falling from the ceiling. Writing in his letter to Mayor Hart:

 "The roof of both facilities leak which requires staff to place trash receptacles to capture the water. During this year's keynote speaker, water was dripping onto a vacant seat next to one of our guests. In the exhibitor hall, strips of paint fell from the ceiling landing on our guests' products and expensive tradeshow displays."

Waterloo Rotary Club President Katelyn Tungland says the center is the only place in the city that's been able to host their weekly lunches at a reasonable price.

"The Five Sullivan brothers has been really accommodating to our club, as we want to stay in the heart of downtown for our rotarians," said Tungland. 

The convenience of staying in the city for their needs, is why some are looking forward to the upgrade. 

"We can't just have momentum with a few great places and then leave some other eye sores or dinosaurs sitting around," said Mallaro. "And that's a key spot in the downtown and it's a key sort of property and venue that we need to have to bring more people to downtown."

Many also pointed to the potential the development agreement has in terms of creating more jobs while keeping a central asset downtown. 

The other part of this agreement is also the sale of the Ramada Inn across the street. This would increase the taxable value of both properties from $3.5 to $17 million.

The public hearing is scheduled to take place during tonight's city council meeting at 5:30 p.m. 

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