Sullivan Brothers Convention Center gets new owner and new name - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Sullivan Brothers Convention Center gets new owner and new name

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The Waterloo City Council Monday night approved the sale of the Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center in Waterloo.

Leslie Hospitality Company, based out of Omaha, will take over the building, with a $6 million dollar initial investment.

The City Council held a public hearing at the Monday night meeting before voting on the sale.

Dozens of community and business leaders urged the council to accept the development agreement and turn things at the center around.

"If you have not had the displeasure of attending an event at the convention center lately, you can accept my expert opinion that both the facility and the service are abysmal," said Christa Miehe, VGM Sr. VP of Corporate Strategy.

Many say the state of the 42-year-old convention center and its services is a low point for the city.

Leslie Hospitality is looking to invest millions in the center and hotel to change that. 

But, some have raised concerns about the credibility of Edwin Leslie and his company's history.

Leslie addressed those concerns during the hearing.

"Like any corporation in America, we have had our ups and downs. In the 20 some years of being in business, our company has had two hotels that have actually failed; two of our 42," said Leslie.

Leslie went on in detail about the reasons behind the failures and encouraged questions on the situations.

Some, including former City Attorney Jim Walsh, support the sale, but cautioned the council not to repeat past convention center & hotel agreements that have failed.

"But it needs to run for the whole agreement and needs to be enforceable for the whole agreement. Remember we are here now because the agreement didn't provide enough specifics," said Walsh, representing JSA Developments.

The agreement also includes a controversial name change. Leslie Hospitality changing the name from "Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center" to the "Waterloo Convention Center at Five Sullivan Brothers Plaza.

The company has also committed to building memorials to the 5 Sullivan brothers.

"This is a great compromise for everybody and I think it will be a great thing for the City of Waterloo," said Kelly Sullivan, the granddaughter of the youngest Sullivan Brother, Albert Sullivan.

The Sullivan family will be involved in the design of the plaza memorial.

The sale of the center was passed by the city council with four yes votes, while three councilmen abstained.

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