More Improvements Coming to Waterloo Convention Center, Home of Heartland Conference

Posted on in Heartland

By Lathan Ehlers, VGM Marketing

The Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center in Waterloo, Iowa, site of VGM’s Heartland Conference, and its adjoining hotel will see a much welcome facelift as new owner Edwin Leslie of Omaha, Nebr.-based Leslie Hospitality Co. looks to put his plans in motion. Already, $6 million has been identified for phase one of the project, which will cover the initial overhaul of the space.

“We’re pushing to start the major work by January,” Leslie said, “but we’ve already made a lot of progress. The casegoods have been designed by Waterloo-based Bertch Cabinets, and we should have a hotel room ready to show in the coming weeks.”

Hotel, Center to Be Renamed

The renovations will bring many changes, including new names, to the spaces, but Waterloo’s history won’t be left behind. The event space will become the Waterloo Convention Center at Sullivan Brothers Plaza.

“We want to make sure we keep the aesthetics of the local market,” Leslie said. “It’s important.”

The convention center opened in 1975 as ConWay Civic Center and in 1988 was renamed Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center after the Waterloo brothers who perished on Nov. 13, 1942, when their ship, the USS Juneau, was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. The brother’s story was told in a 1944 movie, “The Fighting Sullivans,” and their lives have been memorialized with their name on a park, museum, and two U.S. Navy destroyers.

The hotel, formerly a Ramada Inn, will become a Wyndham property with a custom name, Hotel 4th, instead of a Red Lion property as originally planned.

“This soft branding gives us the independence to serve Waterloo’s particular market, while remaining relevant to international travelers,” Leslie said. “And, we’ll compete with 4-star properties in larger cities like Chicago, New York, or L.A.”

Heartland Conference 2018: June 19-21

This act of balancing local history with international appeal is reassuring to many. From June 19-21, 2018, VGM will again host its annual Heartland Conference, bringing approximately 1,000 guests to the area to network with their peers and experience the town VGM calls home. 

Other projects in the Waterloo area have been following a similar model. Later this month, the Courtyard by Marriott will open in what was once a John Deere factory, and it has preserved the interior brickwork, the original pillars, and large factory windows, but will feature all the amenities Marriott guests are used to.

Be sure to check back for updates on future improvements in the Cedar Valley area, as well as announcements regarding the speakers and agenda for the upcoming Heartland Conference.