116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - VenuWorks, the company that revamped the local tourism bureau after the 2018 'newbo evolve” music and cultural festival left more than $2 million in debts, will continue to manage the Cedar Rapids Tourism Office.
The City Council voted Tuesday to extend a contract with the management company through Oct. 14, 2025, to continue marketing the area and attracting visitors through conventions, sports and other events.
'We were asked to start this by the city after the former convention and visitors bureau was no longer able to operate,” VenuWorks Cedar Rapids Executive Director Mike Silva said. 'At the time we thought it was really important to continue to honor the commitments that were made to future tournaments and conventions, and we've been running with it ever since.”
The new office took shape when GO Cedar Rapids folded after incurring a $2.3 million loss on its 'newbo evolve” festival and leaving some vendors unpaid. Two top employees were fired.
VenuWorks is contracted to book events for city-owned performance venues including the Alliant Energy PowerHouse, Paramount Theatre, McGrath Amphitheatre and the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena.
The company operates out of the PowerHouse Convention Center complex with five full-time staff and support from three main office staff.
The city had funded the former organization with $1 million annually, Silva said. But in the three budget cycles the city has contracted with VenuWorks to manage the new agency, Silva said it has received $1.625 million, saving the city $1.375 million.
'We're operating leaner and having some pretty good results,” Silva said.
Since the new agency's 2018 inception, Silva said the city has funded 54 percent of its operating revenue. Up to 14 hotels charge guests a $2 per room per night fee and remit it to the Cedar Rapids Tourism Office to fund destination marketing efforts, which makes up 37 percent of the organization's revenue. The other 9 percent comes from community sponsorship, a visitor guide and other advertising.
Silva said the agency has generated a $31.19 million economic impact from visitors through 83 conventions and sporting events and 19,427 hotel room nights. This means that for every $1 the city spends on tourism, there is a return of $24.09 in direct spending by visitors.
Although the pandemic has wreaked havoc on the tourism industry, Silva said VenuWorks has 72 events confirmed through 2026, which it estimates will result in 47,981 hotel room nights and an economic impact of $43.38 million.
Signature events in the coming years include the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Cross Country National Championships, USA Roller Sports 2021 National Championships, Sweet Adelines Regional Contest and Association of Nature Center Administrators Annual Summit. More requests for proposals are out to book events through 2032, Silva said.
Council member Scott Olson said VenuWorks 'stepped up to the table and helped us out in a very difficult situation” with the transition.
The company is a good fit to manage the agency, Olson said, adding that the length of the agreement is helpful in enabling VenuWorks to recruit staff and improve the city's quality of life.
'We're doing it with less staff and making things happen,” he said.
Comments: (319) 398-8494; email@example.com