116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Michael Silva calls it “a generational tradition.”
Three decades of round, multicolored volleyballs in a mammoth, concrete octagon.
That landmark along First Avenue NE — once known as the Five Seasons Center, then the U.S. Cellular Center — is the Alliant Energy PowerHouse now.
It has hosted concerts, rodeos, boat shows, short-lived professional basketball, soccer and indoor football franchises.
When the Iowa high school state volleyball tournament comes to town Nov. 1-4, it will be its 31st appearance in Cedar Rapids.
There’s no guarantee for a 32nd.
Jean Berger, executive director of the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union, confirmed the selection of a future tournament host — old or new — will be on the agenda of the IGHSAU Board of Directors meeting Nov. 3.
“Basically, it’s a question of whether we’re going to stay in Cedar Rapids or go to (Xtream Arena in) Coralville,” Berger said.
“We’ve been in Cedar Rapids a long time, and we have a great relationship there. The people have been great, and they understand the importance of the event.”
The most recent 10-year deal between the Union and Cedar Rapids — reached in 2011 after the tournament spent two years in the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena (while the downtown facility underwent post-flood remodeling) — is about to expire.
Berger didn’t indicate that the tournament is leaving. But she is willing to listen to other suitors.
And that, without a doubt, will include the new arena in Coralville.
“We’re in a holding pattern, waiting on (Berger and the Union) providing us info on how to proceed with a bid,” said Josh Schamberger, president of Think Iowa City (formerly the Iowa City Convention and Visitors Bureau).
“Girls’ state volleyball has had a long-standing partnership with (the Alliant PowerHouse), but we also know that their contract is set to expire this year. I’m sure that there will be other names in the hat.
“I think we have a facility that will be able to compete.”
Xtream Arena is the home of the University of Iowa volleyball program and the Iowa Heartlanders minor-league hockey team. It seats more than 5,100, even without seats on the floor.
Plus, it has warm-up courts available at the adjoining GreenState Family Fieldhouse.
Jack Ligon, general manager of the facility, said in a statement Wednesday: “Our team here ... would certainly do all we can to roll out the red carpet if we were honored to host.”
While Coralville has the sparkly new facility, Cedar Rapids has tradition. Generational tradition, as Silva said.
Silva is the executive director of VenuWorks, which includes the PowerHouse and adjacent DoubleTree Hotel.
“We’ve got an amazing 30-year history of hosting volleyball in downtown Cedar Rapids. It’s something we’re very proud of, and don’t take for granted,” he said.
“The city of Cedar Rapids submitted a proposal with all of our partners — including the PowerHouse, DoubleTree, the Metro Economic Alliance and VenuWorks — to the Union several weeks ago.
“Our proposal was aggressive. We want the Union to know we want their business.”
The first year of the tournament in Cedar Rapids was in 1991; it previously had been held in Central Iowa high school gymnasiums.
Then, it was a three-day tournament with two classes. There was no such thing as rally scoring, and nobody had heard of anything called a libero.
Now it’s a five-class, 40-team event that runs four days. Pre-pandemic, with a five-class format, a typical weeklong attendance has been 28,000-30,000.
That, Silva said, calculates to about $2 million of consumer spending downtown for the week.
It’s not something Cedar Rapids wants to lose.
“The past couple of years in particular, we’ve gone above and beyond,” Silva said. “We turned the downtown pink, we had a big marketing campaign with banners near the arena.
“I have to be optimistic. We have a great track record, a great reputation with the Union.”
In July, the Union signed a five-year deal to keep the state softball tournament at Fort Dodge, which has hosted that event since 1970.