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Drive-in movie theater gets approval at National Cattle Congress grounds in Waterloo

WATERLOO — A drive-in movie theater could come to the National Cattle Congress grounds.

The Waterloo planning commission unanimously recommended for approval Tuesday a special permit for the project. The man who requested the permit, Tarelle Hoskins, said he decided to “take a crack at it” after realizing there are limited options to take his own kids to similar attractions.

“I’m doing my best. I just want to see something cool,” Hoskins said. “One day I was just thinking, ‘Why don’t I just do it?’”

The project will now head to the Waterloo Board of Adjustment’s April 27 meeting for final approval.

Tarelle Hoskins

Tarelle Hoskins attended Tuesday's Waterloo planning commission meeting on Zoom to seek a special permit for a drive-in movie theater on the National Cattle Congress grounds.

The theater would be open from 9 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, according to city documents. Each night would feature two movies. Hoskins did not share information about when the theater would begin operation.

Nights that feature family-friendly movies will include laser light shows beginning at 8:45 p.m., Hoskins said. He said he plans to offer short fireworks shows once per month on Fridays or Saturdays before movies start.

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The site is expected to hold 150-250 cars per showing, city documents show. That includes space for two-way lanes to let cars enter and exit. People will enter the grounds by taking Ansborough Avenue to Courier Street, and they will then be guided by employees or signs to turn down Courier Street onto a private street. That private drive will bring customers to a gate to show their online ticket or pay cash to enter. Hoskins did not share admission prices Tuesday.

Cars will be spaced to allow for social distancing, Hoskins said. People can either watch movies outside or inside their cars.

A small team of security guards will monitor the site, Hoskins said. City documents said the staff will “ensure that the event is peaceful and is an alcohol- and drug-free environment at all times.”

The theater will show movies on a 50-foot inflatable screen, using an industrial projector, laptop and electricity from either Cattle Congress facilities or a generator, city documents show.

The screen will likely be installed at the east end of the Cattle Congress lot, which would prevent drivers on nearby U.S. Highway 218 from seeing the movies from the road, city officials and Hoskins said.

Hoskins said he does not plan to install permanent structures for food and drink options, but rather hopes to lease temporary spots for vendors.

The site will have accessible portable restrooms and a permanent bathroom on the east side of the Cattle Congress area, Hoskins said.

Several commission members thanked Hoskins for taking initiative on the project. Eric Donat, one of the commission members, said he liked the idea of attracting more drive-in theaters to the area.

“I think it’s a wonderful addition to the Cedar Valley,” said commission member Sue Flynn.

Video from the welcome home ceremony for approximately 150 soldiers from Headquarters Company, part of the 1st "Ironman" Battalion of the 133rd Infantry Regiment of the Iowa Army National Guard, on Tuesday at the Waterloo Regional Airport.


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