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SIOUX CITY | City leaders expect a new downtown hotel adjoining the Sioux City Convention Center will spur fresh interest in the venue, which has seen a recent decrease in event and conference bookings. 

The city announced last spring that North Liberty, Iowa-based Kinseth Hospitality Inc. plans to construct a five-story, $21 million Courtyard by Marriott Hotel on the current convention center parking lot. The 150-room hotel, which will eventually attach directly to the venue, is expected to provide a higher-quality staying experience that could lure more conventions to the area. 

In support of Kinseth's investment, the city will fund construction of a 140-space parking structure behind the hotel, as well as modifications to the current convention center that will include a new "pre-function" space connecting the buildings and a ballroom space in the renovated eastern gallery of the current Convention Center.

Senior Vice President Bruce Kinseth said the company hopes to hold a groundbreaking for the hotel project in March. Sioux City economic development director Marty Dougherty said the parking structure and convention center modifications are under design and could also start in the spring. 

The hotel could open in 2019.

When the city unveiled the project in March, then-Events Facilities Director Erika Newton said the city has had trouble landing some large conferences in recent years partly because it lacked a quality hotel connected to the venue. 

Conventions had in the past relied on the only hotel currently connected to the Convention Center via the skywalk, a 12-story building at 707 Fourth St. After falling on hard times and being sold at a sheriff's auction, the one-time Hilton was re-branded a Howard Johnson in May 2015. The Howard Johnson is now up for sale by its current owners. 

Newton had said regardless of the Howard Johnson's quality now, the memory of reportedly lackluster experiences over the past decade has lingered with some conference and event promoters.

The new hotel is a cornerstone piece of Sioux City's Reinvestment District, the name given to four big-ticket projects planned in a 25-acre area in and around downtown that will collectively receive $13.5 million in funding from the Iowa Economic Development Authority. Sioux City received approval -- with some contingencies -- for that state award in August

During the planning process, the hotel project generated criticism from some, including Sioux City Mayor Bob Scott, who questioned whether the Sioux City Convention Center is worth the subsidy the city pays for it each year. Scott was the sole council vote opposing the project when the council passed development agreements in June.

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