Five Flags Civic Center: Phase 2 Report

CSL was contracted to perform Phase 2 planning for an expanded and improved Five Flags Civic Center based upon diving deep into scenario 4 by approval of the City Council on November 5, 2018. The proposal was heavily weighted to work items to be completed by subconsultants Betsch Associates and FEH Design along with structural, mechanical and environmental subconsultants. The report was presented to the Five Flags Civic Center Commission on Dec. 14, 2018, and the City Council on Dec. 17, 2018. The City Council received the report at that meeting, but took no other action on the issue.

FFCC Phase 2 Report - Cover

Phase 2 Report Summary


Care was taken during planning to architecturally create a facility that could fit into the historic downtown of Dubuque and yet create an iconic look. The main entrance to the arena would be along Main Street on the northeast corner of the building and features a large drop off lane and plaza area. An exterior aerial view shows how this moves the main entrance closer to City parking ramps and parking lots as well as closer to the Town Clock Plaza.

The arena lobby is spacious which will allow people to quickly pass through and enter the facility. There are numerous stairs throughout the arena which can easily move people into and out of the arena and the design includes three elevators in the lobby to assist persons with mobility limitations. The concourse rendering shows how many people could move throughout this area at the same time especially right before and after shows.

The arena has a fixed seat count of 5,912, which includes the premium seating areas. Premium seating includes loge boxes, club seats, suites and party suites. Premium seating areas are now an industry best practice that allows for premium pricing and revenue generation for the facility while offering additional amenities to the guests at events and activities. The study also notes that there would be a seating count of 6,398 if an end stage concert was held, as shown in the arena rendering.  A rendering shows a suite and the view the suites would offer. 

The new theater entrance can be seen in one of the renderings. The current long hallway that is the main entrance on Main Street would be transformed. The entrance area would include an elevator which could take persons with limited mobility to the second floor of the theater, which is not accessible at this time.   

Parking Analysis

A deeper dive was taken into the topic of parking which has been expressed as a community concern. Based on industry standards it is often recommended that one parking space be available for approximately every three seats. The chart on page 17 shows that within practical walking distance the percentage coverage for parking is 275-488%, meaning there is an overabundance in the walkable area. 

If parking is limited to a two-block walk of the arena and if the arena and theater were both at maximum capacity the coverage for parking would be 94%. There are currently an estimated 2,200 parking spaces in public surface lots and parking ramps in that two-block walk. This does not include parking meter locations which are throughout the downtown area.    

The main entrance for the Civic Center’s arena moved northward which made even more public parking spaces within a two-block walk. An expanded drop off area is planned at the main entrance of the expanded Civic Center. This drop off will accommodate more vehicles moving in and out to drop off those that need extra assistance. 

A trend in the industry of event centers is to accommodate ride-share services such as Uber and Lyft for drop-off and pick up. The industry is seeing more use of these services as this is convenient to consumers for numerous reasons. There is an area that is planned that would create an area specifically for these services to drop-off and pick-up before and after events.

Traffic Impact Assessment

An initial traffic impact assessment was also completed as Scenario 4 includes the closing of one block of Fifth Street. This was done outside the CSL contract and was completed by MSA Professional Services, Inc.

The Cost

The Phase 1 assessment and study provided an order of magnitude cost for scenario 4 in 2018 dollars. A significant amount of time was spent with a variety of professionals in specific professional service areas to dig deeper into the specific costs of the site and perform due diligence. The local contractors were also involved in looking at local costing. 

With a deeper dive into the design of the specific scenario number 4 in Phase 2, the numbers for construction and costs are different from the previous study. The construction costs estimated in the previous study were in 2018 dollars, with the construction costs of the specific design shown in Phase 2 being escalated through an assumed 2021 completion. This escalation is for inflation and construction cost changes over the period. The study and assessment order of magnitude cost was $68.5 million, the escalation would be approximately $10 million to that specific scenario. 

The figures for the Project Budget Summary on page 27 represent the estimated all-in costs for when the study was completed, assuming a late 2020 construction groundbreaking with completion in 2021. CSL shared that “it is important to recognize that construction costs have historically risen at a higher rate than standard cost of living based on inflation.” Outside factors not know at the time of the original estimate do not take into consideration the recent current event of steel tariffs. A view of the arena renderings gives some scale to the amount of steel necessary in a clear span building.

The Phase 2 work does not complete a full set of architectural designs and schematics. This means that the cost estimate for the total project of the arena, theater and theater support of $84,791,656 has areas with contingencies that are higher at this point of design. There were items that were determined thus figures have been reflected at the correct level. For instance, it was determined that asbestos had been removed from throughout the facility. This lowered a cost contingency when it became a known factor. Meetings were held with city staff and other utility providers to understand the costs necessary for all utilities and utility locates.

The estimated soft costs shown (i.e. FF&E, financing, design fees, site costs, demolition, remediation, consulting, project management, contingency, etc) are about 20% of the total. Items like remediation, design fees and even FF&E are estimates based on the best assumptions known. Additional architectural costing analysis would refine those estimates during any further design and schematic phase. This means that the soft costs and even construction costs might potentially be reduced with further design and review.

The costs presented reflect 100% of the costs. Phase 2 shares an analysis of other cities and the specific funding sources used for comparable arenas and theaters. Some funding sources cited are not applicable in Iowa however allow the reader to see the varieties of funding methods used for similar projects.

Naming rights are typically used to offset capital costs. Naming right could offset the total capital cost presented if a vote was to be held on the project. For example, Cedar Rapids used to have the Five Seasons Center and now it is called the US Cellular Center.

Phase 2 of the study was received and filed by the City Council in May of 2019. The council then moved forward with Phase 2A, which explored two additional and potential renovated/expanded and hybrid scenarios for the facility.