CORALVILLE — In his nearly six years as Coralville mayor, John Lundell has attended his fair share of groundbreakings and ribbon cuttings.
Wednesday, however, marked Lundell’s first time officiating at a building “topping” ceremony. With a twirl of his finger, Lundell signaled construction crews at Coralville’s Xtream Arena to lift the final steel beam into place for the new arena’s exterior.
“It’s much more exciting that even the groundbreaking was,” Lundell said, noting the excitement comes with seeing the arena take shape. “It really feels like the attraction it’s going to be.”
The Xtream Arena broke ground in May 2018, and Wednesday’s event marked a milestone in its construction.
The arena is the final anchor tenant of the Iowa River Landing, a 180-acre mixed-use development off Interstate 80 on the main artery into Coralville. The other anchors are Von Maur, Trader Joe’s and the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center.
Jason McKane, senior project manager with Mortenson Construction, said at the topping ceremony that it’s important to “take a breath” and note the occasion.
“We take a moment to celebrate it,” he said. “It becomes that transition to the next phase of construction.”
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During a brief ceremony attended by Coralville elected officials, city officials and members of ArenaCo — the nonprofit created by Coralville in 2018 to manage the arena — McKane said construction on the arena is 40 percent complete.
“We turn the keys over to the owner at the end of August 2020,” he said. “It’s their building at that point.”
The $71.3 million complex will feature a 6,000-seat arena, fieldhouse and mixed-use/museum building.
The project has received a $12 million Iowa Reinvestment District Grant, $4.2 million in new market tax credits and naming $24 million in naming rights, as well as corporate and individual gifts, Coralville City Administrator Kelly Hayworth said.
The rest of the tab will be covered by land sales in the Iowa River Landing and other city contributions, Hayworth said.
McKane said workers already are enclosing the building, with work on windows and the brick facade coming soon.
Rough-in work, including concrete, mechanical and electrical work, will follow.
More than 200 craft workers have worked on the arena so far, McKane said. That number will increase during the next phase of construction, he said.
Work also is being done to book events to fill the arena and fieldhouse — the job of Brian Hixenbaugh, general manager for the arena and fieldhouse.
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“We’re looking at 52 weekends a year in the fieldhouse. What do we provide for weekend content?” he said. “What do we do to reduce the number of dark days in the arena?”
Hixenbaugh said he has a few events that are “right there” and expects to announce them in the next 30 to 60 days,
“All items are on the table,” he said. “We are really trying to maximize the impact of what this building can provide and certainly the impact of what it can provide to the community and the Iowa River Landing. That’s really our No. 1 goal.”
Other initiatives include increasing staffing, finding vendors and consulting with Mortenson during construction, said Hixenbaugh, who works for Spectra Venue Management, which also runs Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines and Tyson Events Center in Sioux City.
The new arena is 25 miles from the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, which can seat around 8,000 for concerts. Additional competition is expected for some concerts and events, though Josh Schamberger, with the Iowa City//Coralville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, said earlier this year the Coralville arena will be more sports-focused.
Lundell, the Coralville mayor, said he is looking forward to the arena being a destination attraction and hopes young adults see it as another reason to stay in the area.
“It’s really going to energize the community,” he said.
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