Cedar Rapids City Council approves $750,000 payment to tourism office

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) -- The Cedar Rapids City Council approved giving the Cedar Rapids Tourism Office $750,000 of taxpayer funding earlier this week. The money will come from hotel-motel tax revenues.

More than 20 people spoke during a public hearing about a proposed Cargill rail yard at the Cedar Rapids city council meeting on August 27, 2019. (Mary Green/KCRG)

The Cedar Rapids Tourism Office was created in the wake of the end of Go Cedar Rapids. Go Cedar Rapids stopped operations after losing $2.3 million following the failed Newbo Evolve festival last year.

Venuworks, which runs the U.S. Cellular Center, the Paramount Theater, the McGrath Amphitheater among other venues in the city, is also overseeing operations of the office. With the council vote, Venuworks will manage the office for at least another year.

City Council member Scott Olson and Cedar Rapids finance director Casey Drew tell TV9 they think the council made the right decision.

"The convention business is an important part of a successful community and we need to continue to grow that business and we intend to do that because our hotel-motel tax is growing every year," said Olson.

Olson says among the office's biggest accomplishments include making it possible for the City to host the 2021 USA Curling National Championships.

"We'll support things like salaries that they pay, their staff, it will also go to sometimes bid, do bid dollars for events that are coming up," said Drew.

Drew says it is also important to point out the office has been able to retain many events too including the Division III volleyball and wrestling championships.

TV9 asked mayor Mayor Brad Hart about the situation too and he tells us he thinks the office has done a "remarkable job"

Olson adds it is his hope that one day the Cedar Rapids Tourism office becomes a traditional visitor bureau compete with their own board.