The Five Flags Center is a multi-purpose facility in downtown Dubuque, which was named for the five flags of countries that have, at one point in time, flown over the city of Dubuque.
- The Fleur de Lis of France (1673–1763)
- The Royal Flag of Spain (1763–1803)
- The Union Jack of Great Britain (1780, during a brief interruption of Spanish rule)
- The French Republic Flag of Napoleon (1803)
- The United State's of America's Stars and Stripes (1803–Present)
Formally known as the Majestic Theatre, the existing theater was designed and built around 1911 by C.W. and George L. Rapp of Chicago, who then went on to become America's premier theater architects. From 1929 to 1933,the theater was owned and operated by local prominent businessman Harker Brentnal Spensley, Sr. Spensley, who was the president and manager, named the theater "The Spensley." Four years later, it became part of the RKO film theater circuit and was renamed the RKO Orpheum. By 1969, the building had fallen into disrepair and was scheduled for demolition during Urban Renewal.
A committee of concerned citizens, led by Wayne Andrew Norman, Sr. launched a fundraiser to save the theater, which was integrated into the Five Flags Center project in 1972. Restoration begun in 1975, and the theater reopened in 1976 as the Five Flags Theater. It is currently the home of the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra, high school musicals, as well as concerts and ballet productions.
The Five Flags Arena was conceived as part of a project to rehabilitate the Five Flags Theater. Construction of the arena began in 1976, and the facility had its grand opening on March 24, 1979. The $3.7 million complex wrapped around the theater and extended north between Locust and Main Streets.
The Center features an arena with seating capacity of 4,700. The arena be converted for use as an exhibition hall and an ice rink with the removal of an insulated floor laid over the ice. The Five Flags Center was the former home of the Dubuque Fighting Saints (1980-2001) of the United States Hockey League from 1980–2001 and the home of the Dubuque Thunderbirds hockey team of the Central States Hockey League from 2001–2010.
In 2004, the City of Dubuque exchanged management of the building to SMG Worldwide Entertainment and Convention Venue Management. SMG merged with AEG in late 2019 to form ASM Global, which currently manages the Five Flags Center.
By 2015, the size and age of the building began to limit potential revenue opportunities. In 2016, the Dubuque City Council approved $50,000 for a building and market evaluation for the identification of better uses for the facilities. In December 2016, city council members were asked to approve a request for proposals prepared by a committee of city and economic development officials to determine the future of the building. In May 2018 council members were given a draft report to be used as a guiding document for future decisions. Against the backdrop of the facility being expected to cost the city nearly $900,000 in taxpayer-funded subsidy in the year ending in June, consultants were asked to evaluate the following: maintain the status quo, limited renovation of the arena. renovation of the theater and expanding the arena, or renovating the theater and building a new arena.
The City of Dubuque's Civic Center Advisory Commission has recommended a $74.3 million plan for expansion and upgrading the Five Flags Center. Improvements would include expanding the Five Flags Arena to a 6,500 seat configuration and performing needed renovations to the historic Five Flags Theater. Dubuque voters will be asked to approve a referendum authorizing the purchase of the bonds to pay for the expansion. The referendum was originally set for September 2020, but has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.