It's not the first name change for the convention center in downtown Waterloo. Originally built in 1975, the Conway Civic Center was built as the "hub" of the city with the intention to bring convention-goers and tourists from all over the nation. Back in the day, city officials wanted to bring the city's east and westside together, and that's how they arrived at the building's original name. They combined the words, "connecting way", to make "Conway".

Vintage Ephemera via Amazon
Vintage Ephemera via Amazon

In 1988, the name was changed to the Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center

13 years after it opened, the name was changed to honor local heroes, the five Sullivan brothers, who perished when the USS Juneau was sunk during World War II in 1942. After years of hosting numerous conventions, events, and banquets, the 40,000 square foot building was ready for some much-needed repair and renovations.

In January of 2020, Spectra Venue Management was hired to manage the center

After a deal to sell the convention center fell through, the city hired Spectra Management to manage the events and handle the marketing of the facility. In an effort for easier recognition of the location, Spectra staff recommended renaming it the "Waterloo Convention Center at the Sullivan Brothers Plaza".

On Monday, during the Waterloo city council meeting, members voted unanimously to approve a resolution renaming the 5 Sullivan Brothers Convention Center to the Waterloo Convention Center and naming the outside plaza area the Sullivan Brothers Plaza. During the meeting, which can be viewed on YouTube, Mayor Quentin Hart stated:

“This project is going to highlight the unity, diversity and togetherness of Waterloo. This is going to be one of the best projects we’ve ever had to talk about service, dedication to honor veterans in this community. That’s what this project is about.”


Waterloo mayor has spoken with the Sullivan family

In this day and age, some people like to tell others what they should and shouldn't be offended by. That being said, the Mayor said that he has been in conversation with the Sullivan family. He did not say what their thoughts were on the name change. It's assumed that they're "ok" with it, as the outside plaza's name will honor the Sullivan family.

New name, new website

The Waterloo Convention Center website is already up and running and it talks about reinventing the venue, the dining experience, and the event experience. It also should be noted, that this deal includes that if (and when) Spectra finds a future naming rights partner, they will not have to go through the City Council, it would just have to be approved by the Mayor. Considering that the company manages 184 venues worldwide, including the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, Xtream Arena in Coralville and Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, a follow-up name change or addition seems inevitable.

In the end, this is GREAT for Waterloo

Now that the CDC has relaxed COVID-19 mask-wearing guidelines, it's time to start booking large conventions, concerts, and other events. This multi-million dollar renovation and expansion and re-invention of the convention center can only bring great things to downtown Waterloo. We all just have to adjust to the name change and realize that time marches on.

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