116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Ending a 31-year relationship that has brought hundreds of high school athletes and their fans annually to Cedar Rapids, the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union announced Friday it was moving its state high school volleyball tournament to the new Xtream Arena in Coralville instead.
The championship, last played in November in the Alliant Energy PowerHouse in downtown Cedar Rapids, has an estimated economic impact of $2 million in the community.
“We don’t move our championships around (much),” said Jean Berger, executive director of the IGHSAU. “This wasn’t a decision made in haste. We were careful and thoughtful with it.”
Berger met Friday with reporters hours after the Girls Athletic Union made the announcement. The group’s board of directors had voted unanimously in favor of moving to the Xtream Arena.
“We looked at a variety of factors. We try to make our decisions based on what is best for the Iowa Girl,” Berger said. “We try to go with the facilities that offer the best championship experience.”
Contract details have not been finalized, but Berger said the deal with Coralville is “a minimum of five years,” which would run through at least the 2026 tournament. The 2022 event is scheduled for Oct. 31-Nov. 3.
A decision on the future home of the tournament was tabled at the November board meeting and was not expected to be finalized until January.
“We know that we have very big shoes to fill with the standard that has been set for the past 31 years by Cedar Rapids. We are excited by that challenge,” said a statement from Josh Schamberger, president of Think Iowa City and Iowa City Area Sports Commission.
Later Friday, in an online news conference, Schamberger said that “we’re appreciative of the confidence from Jean and the Girls Athletic Union.”
Xtream Arena opened in September 2020. The arena has a capacity of 5,100 spectators plus additional floor seating, and is connected to the five-court, 53,000-square-foot GreenState Family Fieldhouse. The arena is home to the University of Iowa volleyball team and the Iowa Heartlanders ECHL hockey team.
‘Great guest in Cedar Rapids’
Volleyball was sanctioned by the Girls Athletic Union in 1973. The state tournament had been held at various high schools until 1991, when it came to Cedar Rapids.
It was held in the Alliant Energy PowerHouse (formerly Five Seasons Center and U.S. Cellular Center) for 29 of those years. The other two years, it was at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena while the downtown venue underwent renovation.
In that time, the tournament grew from a two-class event to a five-class format. A total of 119 state champions were crowned. Dynasties were formed at schools like Dike-New Hartford, Western Christian, Dubuque Wahlert and Tripoli.
“There is a lot of nostalgia from our board members,” Berger said. “The relationships we built with the people from Cedar Rapids, they were important. Cedar Rapids had the heart we knew. We do have a connection.”
But, she said, “this is what’s best for our organization and for the girls to have a championship experience. There were several reasons. Finances were just one of them.”
Cedar Rapids City Manager Jeff Pomeranz said the city is “disappointed” with the decision but had enjoyed hosting the annual tournament.
“We’ve enjoyed having the players as visitors to our community, but they’ve made a decision, and so we wish the players and the administration well as they take girls volleyball to Coralville,” Pomeranz said. “We’ve enjoyed having them and they’ve been a great guest in Cedar Rapids.”
The state tournament had been worth about $2 million annually for the city. Schamberger said that figure “is in line what I would expect” for the Iowa City and Coralville area.
Pomeranz acknowledged “there is an impact, no doubt” for the local economy as the tournament moves south. But he said the team at the Cedar Rapids Tourism Office is effective and the city “will do everything possible to replace this tournament as well as bring others to Cedar Rapids.”
“We feel good about our position, we feel good about the future of sporting events in Cedar Rapids, so we’ll continue to work hard and bring in new opportunities,” Pomeranz said.
Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart said he thought Cedar Rapids put forward an amazing proposal to the organization and was disappointed with the news.
“It shows the need for another downtown hotel,” Hart said. “We know that, we’re working hard to get another hotel downtown. It’s hard to compete against state-funded facilities and entities.”
In 2016, the Iowa Economic Development Authority committed $12 million toward the cost of the Coralville arena project, which included hotels, museums and the field house at a total cost estimated at over $185 million.
Like Pomeranz, Hart saw opportunities to bring other groups to Cedar Rapids, and to grow the local economy and population. He also hoped that at some point, COVID-19 cases will plummet enough to allow business travel to return to more normal levels so Cedar Rapids can book larger conventions and meetings.
“More people are here and more people are coming to Cedar Rapids to work and live, and we’ll still continue to be a place where people come for entertainment, for work and meetings and even for medical treatment,” Hart said. “Those people will hopefully stay in hotels, eat in our restaurants and shop in our stores.”
Mike Silva, executive director of VenuWorks of Cedar Rapids, which books events for city-owned performance venues, said the organization is remaining “aggressive” in targeting a variety of industries to book events in the city, including at the PowerHouse arena.
“We’re out selling Cedar Rapids to all sorts of tournament directors and meeting planners and conference planners, and we are moving forward,” Silva said. “We are hugely disappointed that this major tournament is leaving Cedar Rapids, but we’re focused on the next client.”
Marissa Payne contributed to this report.