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Eastern Iowa Sports Venues and Meeting Experiences

January 25, 2019

Both spectator sports and recreational activities that encourage attendees to get off the bench are in play throughout Eastern Iowa.

From learning the sport of curling in Cedar Rapids to visiting the site of one of the most popular sports movies of all time in Dubuque, there are many regional opportunities for groups that are interested in a sporty add-on experience during the meeting.

Following are some standout ideas that will entertain and energize visiting groups.

 

Get in the Game at Eastern Iowa Sports Facilities

Ziplining is a tried-and-true teambuilding activity for groups meeting in Cedar Rapids, as the popular zipline at Bloomsbury Farm is located minutes away in nearby Atkins, Iowa.

“Take the 1,200-foot round-trip zipline side-by-side with a colleague for a fun adrenaline rush,” said Julie Stow, director of meetings and conventions at the Cedar Rapids Tourism Office.

Another recommended activity that is unique to the area is learning to curl with the Cedar Rapids Curling Club at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena.

According to Stow, instructional sessions last about 30 minutes and afterward groups can use their new skills in a pick-up mini game.

“This is a fun way to learn a new skill and have a bit of friendly competition during your event,” she said.

In Dubuque, groups can plan on an Amazing Race-style scavenger hunt that gives teams a terrific opportunity to explore downtown.

Travel Dubuque will arrange this event for groups of up to 200 people, according to Julie Kronlage, vice president of sales for the organization.

Other activities for groups meeting here include a teambuilding activity with the Dubuque Fighting Saints hockey team; Sky Tours Zipline; which has nine different courses flying over Dubuque’s historic Union Park; and the Four Mounds Ropes Course.

“Explore this ropes course, where your group needs to work in teams to accomplish tasks,” Kronlage said. “From walking the ropes to climbing trees to soaring through the sky, this course will measure your team’s ability to work together.”

Planners are encouraged to make the meeting bike-friendly in Quad Cities.

Biking, Quad Cities
Biking, Quad Cities

According to Lynn Hunt, vice president of sales for Visit Quad Cities, attendees could bring their own bikes or rent them from the Visitor Center.

 “The Quad Cities offers 60-plus miles of bike paths through our downtowns, and you can easily cross the Mississippi River between Davenport, Iowa, and Rock Island, Illinois,” she said.  

Attendees can also form small groups and use clues provided by Visit Quad Cities to complete a passport through two states and five cities for a prize.  

“The clues will lead them to local flavors, Ferris wheel rides, breweries, amazing views of the Mississippi River, must-see attractions and shops,” Hunt said.

In Iowa City, all within 15 miles, there are eight public golf courses, 10 disc golf courses, a hatchet-throwing hangout called Hatchet Jack’s, and a ropes course built exclusively for teambuilding.

According to Molly Shymansky, manager of sports development for Think Iowa City, the UI Challenge Course at the University of Iowa could be reserved for groups who’d like to step outside their comfort zones.

“Whether overcoming a fear of heights or simply executing oneself physically, high elements offer a different challenge for everyone,” she said.

“While personal achievement is a large component of the course, the group plays a critical role in supporting its members as they work through the challenges," Shymansky added.

UI Challenge Course, University of Iowa Recreational Services
UI Challenge Course, University of Iowa Recreational Services

Waterloo is home to four 18-hole public golf courses, go-karts and miniature golf at Palmer’s Family Fun, and Lost Island Waterpark, which according to Beth Keeney, marketing and communications director for the Waterloo CVB, offers discounts for groups of 20 or more and a separate picnic pavilion for groups.

Spectator Sports in Eastern Iowa

Group tickets are always available for local sporting events in Cedar Rapids, which is home to the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders hockey team and the Cedar Rapids Kernels, the AAA affiliate of the Minnesota Twins.

“Veterans Memorial Stadium, home of the Cedar Rapids Kernels baseball team, has hosted many social and networking events,” Stow said.

“The concourse is a perfect place for a catered dinner, and they can even set up batting practice or a special movie or viewing on the big screen in the outfield," she added.

Planners can also look into the schedule of events at U.S. Cellular Center, which hosts Cedar Rapids River Kings indoor football games.

An outing to a River Kings game is convenient if the group is housed at the 267-room DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Cedar Rapids Convention Complex, which is attached to the U.S. Cellular Center. Together, the facilities boast more than 80,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space for up to 10,000 attendees.  

Dubuque is also home to ticketed sporting events, particularly collegiate options at Loras College, Clarke University and the University of Dubuque.

It also boasts the popular Field of Dreams Movie Site, where Kronlage said groups can arrange interaction with baseball players, many of whom were in the movie, and learn what it was like to be a part of making a famous movie as well as more about America’s favorite pastime.

Tours and on-site food and beverage service are available.  

TEam of Dreams, Field of dreams, Dyersville
Team of Dreams, Field of dreams, Dyersville | Credit: adventurousvagabond Instagram

Groups visiting Quad Cities could arrange a visit to Modern Woodmen Park, the historic home of the Quad Cities River Bandits Minor League Baseball team located in Davenport, Iowa, on the banks of the Mississippi River.

“Visit Quad Cities can work with the stadium staff to have an organization’s logo on the scoreboard, to throw a first pitch or participate in between-inning on-field contests,” Hunt said.

She added that TBK Bank Sports Complex in Bettendorf, Iowa, is a new year-round indoor sports and entertainment facility that includes meeting space, various courts, sand volleyball, a tiki bar, concessions and High 5 Lanes & Games, which features a full arcade, two escape rooms and laser tag.

In Iowa City, home of the Big Ten’s University of Iowa Hawkeyes, groups can watch athletic events all year, including basketball at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

“Historic Kinnick Stadium holds 70,000 football fans with availability for group tickets and a pre-game catered tailgate party for your group,” Shymansky added.

“The press box at Kinnick is a tremendous venue to host off-site meetings, networking events and banquets for up to 250 people. You get a great view of the field and food options are plenty, from stadium fare to a five-course banquet-style plated dinner.”

And in Waterloo, Keeney said group ticketing is available for Waterloo Bucks baseball games at Riverfront Stadium

Eastern Iowa CVB Contact Information

Cedar Rapids Tourism Office
319.398.5211

Think Iowa City
319.337.6592

Travel Dubuque
563.845.7698

Visit Quad Cities  
309.277.0937

Waterloo CVB 
319.233.8350

Click over to page 2 for a look at new breweries and hotels in Eastern Iowa.

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New Breweries in Eastern Iowa

Sports and beer go hand-in-hand, so the perfect pairing for a meeting that includes a sporting experience is a visit to a local craft brewery. There are many great options in Eastern Iowa where groups could unwind and tap into the local scene.

Among them are five exciting newcomers that have opened within the past couple years.

The newest brewery in Cedar Rapids, where the active craft beer scene is always growing, is Clock House Brewing.

Housed in the historic Clock House Building alongside Black Sheep Social Club, a fine-dining restaurant, the brewery has a menu of beers to satisfy varying palates, including Cahoots Pale Ale and Clockeyed Belgian Wit, as well as a small menu featuring foods that are perfect for sharing, such as chicken wings and duck fat fries.

Opened in fall 2018, Dimensional Brewing Co. is the new kid on the block in Dubuque. 

This seven-barrel brewery in the heart of downtown features a tasty menu of beers in regular rotation, from pilsners to stouts, as well as limited-engagement brews. Food is often available via food trucks parked outside, including Magoo’s Pizza and Happi Hibachi.

Dimensional Brewing could be rented out for an evening event, or space can be reserved within the brewery for small groups.

Bettendorf, Iowa-based Crawford Brew Works opened in the Quad Cities last year with a menu of beers whose names will serve as icebreakers for visiting groups, including Pedal Your Ass Off Porter, Get Off My Lawn IPA and Naked Under the Christmas Tree Stout.

The brewery has plenty of space for groups and acts as a showroom for Crawford Brewing Equipment, one of the industry’s leading equipment makers. 

Big Grove Brewery & Tap Room opened in Iowa City in 2017. It’s since become one of the city’s most popular places to hang out.

Big Grove’s six standard beers include Boomtown Golden Ale and Zadar Nitro Milk Stout, and they also produce seasonal beers and offer dozens of Iowa-based brews on tap. The brewery also has a full food menu including a variety of sandwiches and tacos.

Spaces open to groups at Big Grove include a large outdoor patio with fire pits, and a private party room complete with a bar, large projection televisions, shuffleboard and ping-pong tables.

And in Waterloo is SingleSpeed Brewing Co., which opened in 2017 in downtown’s renovated historic Wonder Bread building.

Beers here include Tricycle Cream Ale and Victory Dance American IPA.

SingleSpeed’s 20 BBL brewhouse offers a traditional beer hall and beer garden for fun social gatherings, and there is also a semi-private room with HD projection and AV capabilities for up to 65 people.

What's New in Eastern Iowa: Hotel and Event Venue Highlights

Cedar Rapids
Heart of America Group
recently announced plans to redevelop downtown’s Guaranty Bank building as well as restore the World Theater foyer into two Marriott Hotel brands and two Heart of America Group restaurant brands.

The four properties—AC Hotel, Courtyard by Marriott, The Republic on Third and Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse—will function as a hospitality hub that provides full-service amenities, including event space and services for meetings and private events.

Dubuque
At press time, Grand Harbor Resort and Waterpark, attached to the Grand River Center, was scheduled to undergo updates to hotel rooms, the waterpark, on-site restaurant and hotel lobby at the beginning of this year. 

The new 84-room TownePlace Suites Dubuque Downtown opened in December one block from the Millwork Ballroom, an event space that accommodates up to 400 people. At press time, the Millwork Ballroom was working on adding breakout meeting space to the lower level. 

Best Western Plus Dubuque Hotel and Conference Center recently upgraded all meeting space and guest rooms.

Iowa City
The 234-room Graduate Hotel Iowa City, which features 12,000 square feet of meeting space, reopened in June 2018 after an extensive renovation including guest room updates.

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About the author
Carolyn Blackburn