New owner has big plans for Col Ballroom

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DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) - On the verge of its centennial, a veteran event planner and concert worker is ready to breathe new life back into the Col Ballroom.

Lee Neece says he will close July 14 on the purchase of the venue along Davenport’s 4th Street - where the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash and Davenport’s own Bix Beiderbecke have performed over its long history.

The Col has been owned and operated by the Quad-Cities Mexican American Organization since 1995.

The Quad-City Times reports (http://bit.ly/1iQ9pXr ) Neece, who has an anonymous backer, would not divulge the price he’s paying for the building. In a June 2012 Quad-City Times story, real estate agents listed the price at $550,000, down from the original asking of $675,000.

Leigh (Macias) Reitz, who has been working as events coordinator at the Col for the past 14 months, will stay on at the job. She said every Saturday night at the Col is booked through the end of the year.

In the past several years, a majority of the Col’s uses have been wedding receptions and Quinceañera, the Hispanic celebration of a 15-year-old girl’s birthday.

Neece said he’s ready to expand the offerings.

For example, a San Diego-based mixed martial arts fight series called Explode is set to book four cards of bouts per year at the Col. Boxing promoter Glamor Productions is planning on four to six cards a year, with the first scheduled July 11.

But Neece said he’s most excited about returning the Col to a concert venue.

“We’re looking at bringing concerts back,” added Neece, who has worked in that industry both on tours and as a lighting rigger at the iWireless Center in Moline. “We’ve got tons of power here, we’ve got the beautiful stage, the acoustics are phenomenal.”

Neece doesn’t want to divulge the names of the acts he’s considering, but he said it would be a variety of music.

Acts he would book, Neece said, would bring larger crowds than bars and nightclubs, but smaller audiences than the area’s larger performance venues.

“There’s plenty of business to go around for everybody,” he said. “I don’t want to compete with the Adler and the RiverCenter, the iWireless. I don’t want to compete with the (Mississippi Valley) fair. I want to bring in mid-range groups that aren’t playing at any of those places.”

Joe Taylor, the president and CEO of the Quad-Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau, said a rejuvenated Col Ballroom will be a “wonderful opportunity” for the community.

“It’s one more venue, an iconic venue, that’s been around in the Quad-Cities for a number of years,” he said. “I think a new owner who is successful in providing some consistent customer service and consistent marketing will make all the difference in the world.”

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