Sullivan family against renaming Waterloo convention center

WATERLOO — A Waterloo family is opposing plans by a hotel developer that would remove their family’s name from the city’s downtown convention center.

Leslie Hospitality of Omaha, Neb., plans to rename the Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center as the Waterloo Convention Center, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reported.

Five Sullivan brothers were among nearly 700 sailors who died when a Japanese submarine torpedoed the USS Juneau in 1942.

A new name is critical to overcome the center’s poor standing in the convention and events market due to its age and lack of amenities, said John Maloney, whose firm handles marketing for Leslie Hospitality properties.

“I don’t think the Sullivan name has a bad reputation at all, but I think the center has a bad reputation,” Maloney said. “The brand of the center is struggling right now.

The renaming of the center is an opportunity to show the marketplace that it’s a new and different product, he said. The company plans to honor the Sullivans with a memorial in the exterior plaza.

But Sullivan family members said they weren’t asked about the name change and believe it would be harmful to them, the city and veterans.

“It’s not just about the Sullivan family; the Sullivan name represents all veterans,” said Kelly Sullivan. Her grandfather, Albert Sullivan, was one of the five brothers. “This is really not a nice way to honor them, not just the five boys but the 700 who perished.”

The city may donate the 42-year-old convention center to the development group and provide economic development incentives to leverage the company’s estimated $14 million investment in the center and the adjacent hotel.