What new management of Dubuque’s Grand River Center Means

The Grand River Center in Dubuque.
The Grand River Center in Dubuque.(KCRG)
Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 5:25 PM CDT
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - Dubuque’s City Council on Monday is expected to formally hire a new management firm to run its city-owned Grand River Convention Center starting in April.

A committee selected OVG360 from three proposals to operate the center. It will replace Platinum Hospitality, which has run since it opened in 2003. OVG360 also runs Waterloo’s Sullivan Brothers Plaza and the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines.

Here is a breakdown of what this means for people living in or visiting Dubuque:


This is the main reason Dubuque’s Leisre Services Manager, Marie Ware, says the city wanted to pursue a new management agreement. The current agreement essentially lets Platinum Hospitality assume the financial risk and gains for running the center while the city subsidizes some of the maintenance and upkeep of the facility. This gave the City of Dubuque very little insight or say into how the Grand River Center operates. In fact, in its request for proposals it was unable to give companies current or past revenue or expenses since those were all managed outside of the city’s purview under the current agreement.

Ware says the new agreement with OV360 will make the entire operation an open book with plenty of the city’s oversight and goals worked into the operations. Ware says the city wants to make sure the Grand River Center is not just seeking the best financial outcomes but also working to support the greater area economy. That includes attracting events and tourists and creating a supportive environment for Dubuque area companies to utilize the center.


In the current fiscal year, Dubuque taxpayers budgeted $381,000 in management expenses for the Grand River Center. The new agreement would cause extra costs to taxpayers in the first couple of years of the agreement. The City budgeted an extra $370,000 to help cover extra costs as part of transitioning management companies in the first full fiscal year. That would push the total taxpayer subsidy for the Convention Center to an estimated $691,000. However, Ware says those are mostly one-time costs and the yearly cost to taxpayers should revert to similar levels as the current agreement in future years.

The city may also have to pay bonuses to OVG360 if it meets both financial benchmarks and qualitative goals like community involvement and marketing plans focused on the regional economy.