Schmitt Island Amphitheater Project Awarded $3 Million Grant from Destination Iowa Funding

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds announced late last week that the City of Dubuque was awarded a $3 million Destination Iowa Grant for the Iowa Amphitheater on Schmitt Island project. Funding for this program has been made available through the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

The Iowa Amphitheater on Schmitt Island project will be a significant investment in an outdoor amphitheater. This project is the centerpiece of ongoing efforts coordinated by the DRA (Dubuque Racing Association) to create a recreational landmark and gateway into Iowa – with the goal being to enhance outdoor recreational amenities and activities on the island and increase tourism in Dubuque and the tri-state region.

“This grant is great news for this exciting project and will help take Schmitt Island to a whole new level,” said Dubuque Mayor Brad Cavanagh. “We’re grateful to Governor Reynolds and the Iowa Economic Development Authority and the Biden Administration for providing these ARPA funds.”

Schmitt Island is owned by the City of Dubuque, which leases portions of the island to various entities, including the DRA. The City will manage the grant, including bidding and all construction aspects. Upon completion, the DRA, through a management agreement, will manage the completed project.

“We are pleased with the state’s decision to award this grant to the City of Dubuque and look forward to helping drive this project forward to completion,” said Alex Dixon, CEO of DRA and Q Casino. “There are a lot of exciting things being planned for Schmitt Island, so this infusion of resources will help move us closer to revitalizing and enhancing and area that is already a visible landmark in our community.”

The Iowa Amphitheater at Schmitt Island will be a performance amphitheater, designed to attract national acts. It will also serve as a venue for the local symphony, college and university performing groups, nonprofit events and other regional performances. The amphitheater is planned as a versatile space to host varied audiences and will be sized for regional acts with 2,000 to 3,000 patrons and for national acts of 5,000 to 7,000 people.

The project vision is to enhance Schmitt Island as “Dubuque’s Gateway to Entertainment and the Mississippi River,” as was set forth in the Schmitt Island Master Plan, developed in 2014 and updated in 2017, and the Schmitt Island Placemaking & Implementation Plan, adopted in June 2017. The mission adopted for the project is to create “a connected island that welcomes visitors and the community to recreation, entertainment and the outdoors.” For more information on plans for Schmitt Island, visit

Projects funded though Destination Iowa must be completed by June 30, 2026.

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