Government

Cedar Rapids convention complex now the Alliant Energy Power House

U.S. Cellular does not continue its naming rights deal

The front of the downtown convention complex, which will now be called the Alliant Energy Power House, is seen in a rend
The front of the downtown convention complex, which will now be called the Alliant Energy Power House, is seen in a rendering with new signs. (Image courtesy of VenuWorks of Cedar Rapids)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Long known to audiences as the U.S. Cellular Center, the city’s downtown arena and convention center will now be called the Alliant Energy Power House instead.

Cedar Rapids and Alliant announced Friday a partnership to rename the approximately 470,000 square-foot arena and convention complex under a new deal.

Jay Anderkin, general manager of the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel at the complex, said the 12-year naming rights agreement with Alliant Energy starts at $300,000 per year with an option for another five years, totaling $3.6 million. If the deal spans the full 17 years, that amounts to $5.1 million.

City Finance Director Casey Drew said the naming rights agreement with U.S. Cellular approved in February 2012 was a seven-year contract that started July 1, 2013, and ended June 30 for a total of $2.6 million.

The company chose not to execute an optional additional three years of the agreement, he said, and the city did not have a naming rights agreement in place yet to begin July 1.

At $300,000 a year, the new agreement will bring in less annual revenue than did the seven-year deal with U.S. Cellular — but the contract will go on for more years.

City Manager Jeff Pomeranz told The Gazette the cellphone company is pulling out of such naming-rights deals across the country.

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In Chicago, for example, U.S. Cellular dropped its agreement with the White Sox for naming rights of its coliseum in 2016. The Chicago Tribune reported the company said its third-quarter earnings took a $13 million hit because of expenses from pulling out of the deal early.

Pomeranz said revenue from the agreement with Alliant Energy, one of the city’s largest employers, will help maintain the city-owned facility and improve programming. He also said it will allow Cedar Rapids to enhance and expand its existing collaborative relationship with the energy company.

“Having Alliant come in and fill that void and make it a further commitment because it’s a longer contract, is just a positive for the city,” Pomeranz said.

The venue originally was named the Five Seasons Center when it opened in 1979 and later became the U.S. Cellular Center under the naming rights contract.

The new partnership comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has paused travel and disrupted large events like those typically held in the city’s flagship venue.

The hotel reopened again in July with new safety protocols after closing in March. The city reaped less revenue from overnight guests while the DoubleTree and other hotels were temporarily shuttered.

According to the Iowa Department of Revenue, Cedar Rapids took in about $3.2 million in hotel-motel tax dollars for the 2020 budget year, which ended June 30 — a drop from about $3.9 million in fiscal 2019.

Signs with the U.S. Cellular name will be taken down in the coming weeks, Anderkin said, acknowledging that local sign makers are busy after the derecho.

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The Girls’ State Volleyball Tournament in November will be the first event held at the convention complex under the new partnership, he said.

Mike Silva, executive director of VenuWorks of Cedar Rapids, which books the venue, said it’s difficult to be sure when large events will be able to return to full capacity, because it depends on the availability of a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19 and the guidance of public health agencies. The venue is large enough to allow for some events to be held with social distancing and other protocols in place.

He said Alliant Energy saw the venue as a good fit and there are plans to install outreach kiosks with things like charging stations that create opportunities to engage with the community.

Alliant Energy senior vice president Terry Kouba said the company is excited about the new partnership with the city and community for the hotel, convention center and arena complex.

He said it is “just one example of our ongoing commitment to supporting the Cedar Rapids community.”

“We are a part of this community and we always will be,” Kouba said. “Supporting Cedar Rapids, the largest community Alliant Energy serves, is important to us.”

The “highly visible partnership” will spur growth, innovation and economic development in Cedar Rapids, he said. Events held here help create jobs and draw people to restaurants and other businesses in the heart of the city.

Kouba said the company is excited to play a role in the memories people make here — attending concerts and sporting events, holding weddings and celebrating commencements.

“This venue will always have a special meaning to so many people,” Kouba said.

Comments: (319) 398-8494; marissa.payne@thegazette.com

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