CORALVILLE — The opening of Coralville’s Xtream Arena won’t be quite what officials envisioned when they broke ground on the facility two years ago, but confidence remains it will deliver on its promise to be a sporting and entertainment destination.
Local officials and members of the media were invited to Wednesday’s sneak peek of the Xtream Arena and GreenState Family Fieldhouse ahead of next week’s ribbon cutting and grand opening.
In his introductory remarks, Coralville Mayor and ArenaCo board member John Lundell noted that 2020 presented challenges — but none of them with a greater impact on the arena than the COVID-19 pandemic.
But while the pandemic will pass eventually, the arena will remain, Lundell said.
“This is a project that will keep giving, giving and giving more in perpetuity,” he said. “The excitement is yet to come.”
Wednesday’s media day featured short remarks on the floor of the arena and a tour of the facility, including locker rooms, suites, the field house and concourse.
Big Grove and Backpocket breweries both will have beverages served at the arena. The Guild and Pizza Ranch will be included on concession menus.
Think Iowa City President and ArenaCo board member Josh Schamberger said the day was a little bittersweet.
“It’s an unbelievable building,” Schamberger told The Gazette. “But there’s nobody doing concerts right now, there’s nobody doing shows. So, we’re going to have to be patient for another six months or so before it realizes its full potential.”
Hype videos for the University of Iowa women’s volleyball team, which will be a main tenant of the arena and host home games there, were shown during the event. Schamberger said watching the videos made him “a little emotional” knowing that games would be taking place were it not for COVID-19 putting a halt to UI athletic events.
“That’s what we were building toward and now we can’t have it,” he said. “But it also gives you butterflies to know how absolutely electric this building is going to be when we can have it.”
The Iowa Economic Development Authority in 2016 awarded $12 million toward the roughly $70 million arena and sports complex — which was part of a larger, nearly $200 million investment in The Iowa River Landing area.
Officials broke ground on the venue in May 2018, but the arena had been a vision for Coralville for much longer. Back in the 1990s — when what is now the Iowa River Landing was only a blighted section of Coralville — city leaders drew up a master plan for the area, City Administrator Kelly Hayworth said. It included a small arena to host concerts and other events.
The Iowa River Landing concept got underway with the construction of the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center — the IRL’s first anchor tenant — in the early 2000s. The arena will serve has the final anchor to the district, which includes bars, restaurants, retail outlets and hotels.
“It’s just hard to believe we got to this point,” said Hayworth.
While it likely will be 2021 before the arena is hosting events on a consistent basis, the facility has seen no shortage of activity already. Since informally opening a week ago, the field house has hosted pickleball players, basketball and volleyball clinics and will be home to All Iowa Attack, a highly successful AAU basketball program. On Oct. 9-11, the arena is scheduled to host the USA Wrestling Senior Nationals.
Hayworth said that event will give officials the chance to “get all of those bugs worked out” before hosting events full-time next year.
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“This gives us an opportunity to make sure all those things are worked out so we can do a great job for people next year when we’re really cranking,” said Hayworth, who noted board members also will soon be announcing a hockey team. “The field house will continue to rock ‘n’ roll because we’ve had so much interest in that, despite the pandemic. ... As we continue into the new year, it’s only going to get better.”
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