Waterloo Convention Center

Waterloo, IA | Government + Cultural


The Waterloo Convention Center at Five Sullivan Brothers Plaza, formerly known as Five Sullivan Brother’s Center, has seen little improvements to its infrastructure, event spaces, and outdoor plaza since it was built in the 1970s. With transparent stakeholder involvement, local familiarity of the Cedar Valley area, and in close collaboration with the City of Waterloo, ISG revitalized the interior and exterior of the Center to serve the economic and community needs for years to come.


The City of Waterloo partnered with ISG to conduct a facility assessment of the convention center to aid in the revitalization efforts of the local economy and provide the community with an enhanced visitor experience within the downtown corridor.


ISG assessed the existing facility and the surrounding site to identify repairs and updates necessary to facilitate the design of the Center. ISG’s team of experts used visualization and 3D rendering technology to convey the space to its numerous stakeholders to give them an in-depth view to the space and further assist in the design process. Through technology, the team prevented design flaws, saving time and additional resources. After thorough investigation, ISG provided the City with the means to make an informative decision to renovate the existing building, rather than relocate the Center out of the downtown corridor and build a new facility.

With the goal of the Center serving landmark of the downtown corridor and creating an inviting environment, design focused on the plaza, an entryway addition, and complete renovation to the roof façade. Most of the brick exterior finish was preserved and updated with modern materials, lighting, and natural elements to draw away from the former brutalist architectural design. The plaza pays tribute to the Five Sullivan Brother’s with bronze memorials throughout. Grass areas and greenery replaced the concrete plaza to offer a comfortable gathering space for festivals, food trucks, and numerous activities.

An addition to the front of the building created a designated entry space that would separate the event spaces and meeting rooms from pedestrian traffic, also creating opportunity for the lobby to be used as a true convention gathering space. A skyway lobby connecting the Center to a parking ramp and hotel opens to the first level to give visitors direction into the space. Accessibility issues throughout the Center were addressed with elevator, escalator, and restroom renovations. Once dark and constrained, the space harnessed natural sunlight with floor to ceiling windows, opened with raised ceilings, and featured bright finishes throughout.

“Our convention center has the ability to attract hundreds of thousands of people per year. It has a huge economic impact on the surrounding businesses, hotels, small businesses. We need something that we're proud of, something that we can take pride in, something that people will be able to come from all around the country to our convention center."

- Quentin Hart, Mayor, City of Waterloo

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