CEDAR RAPIDS — The 20-year relationship between the state volleyball tournament and the U.S. Cellular Center will be interrupted next fall.
Renovation to the arena will force officials from the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union to relocate the tournament, scheduled for Nov. 9-12, 2011.
“We’re not going to be able to play there, and right now, we don’t know where we’re going,” IGHSAU assistant director Joel Oswald said Tuesday.
As of November, U.S. Cellular Center officials had assured the Girls Union that it would start interior reconstruction on the building as soon as the 2011 tournament was completed. But the timetable apparently has changed.
“We’re going to try to roll with it,” Oswald said.
The tournament draws 32 teams and more than 30,000 spectators each year. The arena is contracted to host the event through 2015.
Oswald said IGHSAU officials will visit the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena on Jan. 3 to discuss the feasibility to move the tournament there for a one-year deal before returning to the U.S. Cellular Center in 2012.
He said the volleyball set-up for the Ice Arena would seat about 3,500 fans.
“Our biggest concern: Can we fit the crowd in there?” he said.
Marilee Fowler, president of the Cedar Rapids Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the advantages of Ice Arena include “more intimate seating and an abundance of free parking.”
Other options are the McLeod Center in Cedar Falls, Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines and Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.
One potential strike against the McLeod Center: the adjoining UNI-Dome hosts state football semifinals the same weekend as state volleyball.
Cedar Rapids Kennedy Athletics Director Aaron Stecker has been a staunch supporter of the event in Cedar Rapids.
“With the rise in popularity of volleyball as the most participated sport in Iowa, I’m sure a lot of parties are interested in having this event in their area,” he said. “I’m afraid this could create some hard feelings that might cause this to go somewhere else in the future.
“Having this tournament in Cedar Rapids gets a lot of young ladies excited and motivated about volleyball. If the tournament eventually goes somewhere else, I think the sport will suffer in Eastern Iowa.”
The tournament has been at the U.S. Cellular Center (formerly the Five Seasons Center) since 1991 and has grown from a two-class, three-day event into the current four-class, four-day format. Fowler said that Cedar Rapids has drawn about $30 million through the 20-year run.