Viking Cruises Wants Dubuque Port

DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- A river cruise company wants the City of Dubuque to build a $4 million river dock, but council members say they need a lot more information before they can move ahead with any plans.

The city of Dubuque could build a new dock that would allow for more river boat cruises to make tour stops in the Port of Dubuque. (Allison Wong, KCRG-TV9)

 Viking River Cruises offers boat tours around the world, and they want to expand to the Mississippi River. Mayor Roy Buol said the company first approached city leaders three years ago about adding Dubuque to its list of stops. However, the company requested Dubuque build a new docking facility to meet its demand.

Buol is interested in exploring this request for a couple reasons. First, he believes more river cruise stops in Dubuque would benefit the local economy. Second, he said the Port of Dubuque isn't meeting the demand of river boats any longer.

Buol said the Port of Dubuque sometimes has to turn away boats because there isn't enough room. However, Travel Dubuque Vice President Julie Kronlage said they usually make it work. If there isn't room in the port, boats can be docked at A.Y. McDonald Park, although she said it's not ideal.

"At that time we have to arrange shuttles, they have to get off the ship, get on to a motor coach, and then come down into the Port of Dubuque," Kronlage explained.

She said river cruising is a growing industry and Dubuque could always use more space for the boats.

Kronlage said, "with the opportunity to keep those ships coming to the community, we’d love to be able to again welcome them here to the Port of Dubuque."

A new docking facility would be reserved for Viking when it stops in Dubuque, but could be used by other boaters when it's free.

"The rest of the time, that facility is open to any other boats...for any other boats that, you know, come up and down the river," Buol said.

The economic impact could be great if Viking sticks to its projected plan.

Back in 2015, a brochure given to the city by Viking broke down their tentative plans and the benefits it could bring to Dubuuqe.

Viking estimated two boats at maximum capacity stopping in Dubuque 16 times could have an economic impact of $811,200 in 2017. Their plan accounted for adding an additional two boats in 2018, and another two boats to make a fleet of six by 2019. In that year, they estimated six full boats stopping 16 times could have an economic impact of almost $2.5 million.

"They’re spending money in our restaurants, they’re going to our attractions, they’re going to the drug store, they’re getting their prescriptions filled," Kronlage said. "The economic impact of having these people here is absolutely amazing.”

"I think it’s just a natural for Dubuque to at least be in the discussion stage talking about whether or not that will be a possibility," Buol said.

Council member David Resnick agrees that money would be a great thing for Dubuquers. However, he said he needs to know more about Viking's plans before he is okay with building a new, multi-million dollar dock.

"We need answers, then we need to verify the answers, then we have to determine if those answers are right for Dubuque," Resnick said. "What is Dubuque’s return on investment? You know, what do our citizens get out of it? That’s what I’d like to know.”

He believes Viking should help pay for the dock.

"It would be mostly Dubuque citizens who would pay the freight and it’s important I think that they, Viking, would be part of the whole situation," he said. "Making some agreements, putting it in writing, and then let’s have a private partnership with the public and make it a win-win."

Councilman Jake Rios wants more information about Viking's plans as well. He is also concerned the city is spending too frivolously.

He said, “it seems that we just keep piling it on and on and on, just because we happen to be doing well and our debt's going down.”

The city manager's office is working to get a representative from Viking to Dubuque to have a work session with or speak at a council meeting. Buol looks forward to more information from Viking.

"Whether or not we actually build a dock, I don’t know if that will be the final decision, but it’s a time sensitive thing to have that discussion this year," he said.

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