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RiverCenter draws crowds downtown


Nearly 15 years ago, the Davenport RiverCenter was built in the heart of downtown, and has since become the site of major trade shows and expositions. A skywalk connects the center to a hotel complex, office buildings and the Adler Theatre.

The RiverCenter, owned by the city of Davenport, is a major artery in the heart of the downtown.

The convention center at 136 E. 3rd St. accommodates large business gatherings, concerts, trade shows, conventions and meetings. It has more than 50,000 square feet of open space, two exhibit halls, small meeting rooms, banquet space and full catering service.

An enclosed skywalk provides access between the north and south halls and connects the center to a hotel complex, office buildings and the Adler Theatre.

``The RiverCenter is a home for many popular annual events,'' said Shari Baker, promotions coordinator. ``We have the car show, the boat show, the symphony, the opera, lifestyle shows, and many Quad City Arts shows.''

Bill Cosby is scheduled to come in April, she added.

``And most people are very familiar with the Festival of Trees show every year,'' Ms. Baker said. ``And we're continuing our Broadway series with Jam Productions.''

The center hosts many private events, including food shows, trade shows, conventions and meetings, she said.

``There's something going on in the building about every day, and often there's more than one thing going on,'' she said.

``Our mission is to bring in outside visitors and revenue into the Quad-Cities, for the hotels, the restaurants and all the businesses in the area,'' Ms. Baker said. ``And we promote the Quad-Cities like crazy.''

The city of Davenport decided to privatize management of the center last year.

``The bottom line is, we want to greatly increase the business activities there,'' Jim Pierce, city administrator, said at the time. ``We want more concerts and shows, more exhibitions, more events ... we want to fully tap the potential the two facilities have.''

Compass Facility Management, an Ames, Iowa-based group was awarded the contract in July 1997.

Nearly 15 years ago, the original section of the RiverCenter was built by the city. In 1994, a $2 million promise from the Bechtel Family Trust helped fund part of a $15 million improvement project, which included a 79,000-square-foot expansion and a skywalk over Second Street connecting the expanded area to the older part of the RiverCenter.

The remaining project costs were financed with general-obligation bonds paid off with money from the hotel/motel tax and funds from the Riverboat Development Authority, the non-profit arm of the President Riverboat.

The ``new'' addition has a 33,500-square-foot exhibition hall, the RiverCenter's second exhibition area.

At the time, Dick Bittner, a trustee of the Bechtel estate, said the trust's namesakes, Harold and Marie Bechtel, would be happy with what their money helped accomplish.

-- By Lisa Lansman (February 2, 1998)

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