Cedar Rapids awarded seven NCAA Division III championships through 2022

City will host national baseball, volleyball and wrestling tournaments

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CEDAR RAPIDS — The City of Five Seasons officially became the city of seven national championships Tuesday.

Cedar Rapids will be a busier place in the upcoming years.

The NCAA announced sites for national championship events through 2022, naming Cedar Rapids the host for future NCAA Division III baseball, volleyball and wrestling tournaments.

A modest group from area organizations gathered at Veterans Memorial Stadium to watch the online announcements, applauding efforts to secure the national baseball tournament from 2019-22, 2019 volleyball championship and wrestling championships in 2020 and 2022.

Bids were submitted for Division III baseball, softball, volleyball and wrestling. Upper Iowa University and Go Cedar Rapids partnered on bids for Division II volleyball and basketball. Upper Iowa had already been awarded the 2018 D-II Wrestling Championships.

“To win seven national championships is mind-blowing,” Go Cedar Rapids President and Chief Executive Officer Aaron McCreight said. “A good day would be one.

“To get seven today, including three in one school year, I’m so proud of everybody involved in this. We couldn’t have done it without everyone.”

The Iowa Conference will team with Go Cedar Rapids to hold each of the events.

“We’re thrilled,” IIAC Commissioner Chuck Yrigoyen said. “This will be a great way to showcase the city (and) our conference.”

The tournaments promise to bring in athletes, coaches, administrators and families from all over the country to downtown Cedar Rapids. McCreight estimated that $3.2 million will be spent by just the participants. That does not account for the money brought in by families and friends following them at the events.

The 2019-20 school year will be extremely busy with three D-III tournaments in town, bringing in money to local restaurants, hotels, retailers and entertainment businesses.

“They are only on the court, mat or field for a couple of hours,” McCreight said. “The rest of the day and night they are in the community, spending their dollars here and that’s leaving millions of dollars.”

Dick Simmons has served on NCAA Wrestling committees in the past. He was a key component to winning the wrestling bids again. From the size and convenience of the airport to the venues and entertainment, Cedar Rapids is a perfect host for wrestling and other similar events.

“Cedar Rapids shows love to the NCAA, student-athletes, coaches and fans,” Simmons said. “From the downtown renovations and everything, it is a town that shows well. It has a lot of things for them to do outside of the championships.

“For wrestling, the venue is the best for Division III wrestling.”

Coe College will be blocks away from two of the championships. Coe Athletics Director John Chandler said it will be good exposure for the city, IIAC and his campus.

“It’s big for the Iowa Conference,” Chandler said. “It’s good for Coe College. We’ll be very much about the process. We’ll be about the venues and getting people working. I think it’s just another opportunity to get our name out.”

Past successes were a big part in the competitions returning to Cedar Rapids. Committee members likely considered the experiences from previous wrestling championships, the 2013 D-II volleyball championships, IIAC volleyball tournament and Iowa high school state volleyball tournaments.

“We have a great history of hosting championship events at many levels,” McCreight said. “The NCAA certainly doesn’t want to be a guinea pig. They don’t want to be the first one in. They want to make sure you know what you’re doing and we’ve certainly proven that in the past years.”

Bids have been made before but Appleton, Wis., had a stronghold on the D-III baseball tournament. Persistence paid dividends when Appleton didn’t bid this cycle. The IIAC was also interested in bringing a women’s championship event to town as well.

“To get baseball for all four years is surprising, but flattering and exciting,” said Yrigoyen, adding, “To get volleyball was a real nice shot in the arm for us. It’s a women’s sport and something new for us.

“I’m sure the sport committee was probably influenced by the fact that Upper Iowa had held Division II there. From all reports, they got a good grade.”

McCreight said the versatility of the U.S. Cellular Center helped earn both volleyball and wrestling, being able to adjust its floor layout for the different sports. Veterans Memorial Stadium is home to the Cedar Rapids Kernels, a Class A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins, and an attractive field that already hosts the IIAC tournament.

“We have unbelievable venues,” McCreight said. “We have unbelievable people who work in those venues to make all of this possible.”

McCreight praised Go Cedar Rapids’ Director of Sports Tourism Mary Lee Malmberg as a driving force for the bids. The early stages were spent organizing the effort. Everyone jumped on board immediately and they will continue to cooperate, planning and carrying out the events.

“We all did this together,” McCreight said. “We’re going to continue to do it together. The work starts now.”

Simmons said the wrestling championships require between 160 and 180 volunteers to run the two-day event. He estimated much less for the other two sports, but they will need many people to pitch in time and effort to pull off the tournaments.

“The people in this area are always happy to help out with stuff they like and have affection for it,” Simmons said. “That’s why I think baseball, volleyball and wrestling will find some volunteers. You’ve got to shake some trees to get people to help. I think people will be coming out to help when they realize this is a championship coming to town.”

They won’t be the only college championships in the area. University of Iowa will host the 2021 and 2022 NCAA Division I Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships at the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center.

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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