UPDATE by Nadia Crow
Cedar Rapids–For the first time in more than 20 years, the US Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids will not host the girls state volleyball tournament next year. Construction of a new convention center complex forced it out. With millions of dollars at stake, the question now is where will the tournament go? Several venues are volleying for next year’s tournament. Among them are the McCleod Center in Cedar Falls, the Wells Fargo Arena and Knapp Center in Des Moines, Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, and the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. Tournament organizers will tour all of them. Monday, they got a closer look at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena.
It’s the home of the Cedar Rapids Roughriders and ice skating competitions. But city officials and ice arena staff hope it’ll be the new temporary location of the girls state volleyball tournament. The goal Monday, convince the union the ice arena is its best option. The future location of the girls state volleyball tournament remains in limbo.
“Hard to make a decision without actually seeing the facility,” said IGHSAU Executive Director Mike Dick.
The home of the Roughriders hopes to transform itself into the temporary home of the “bump, set, spike” tournament.
“The more people we can get in here at a time the better,” said Ice Arena Hockey Director Kevin Brooks.
Ice Arena staff showed Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union officials the two ice rinks, concession stands, box suites, and everything in between.
“There are actually a number of advantages. As far as the number of locker rooms, parking, free parking, and a place to put the buses things we didn’t have at Cellular,” said Dick.
Having the tournament here will give the Ice Arena a chance to show what the facility offers. Officials say they can put a floor on top of the ice without having to melt it in just a few hours.
“It’s just a matter of getting the flooring down, in and out, in those two days so we can keep our ice scheduling as close as possible,” said Brooks.
But with the good comes the bad.
“Our immediate concerns are the seating. It doesn’t seat as many people as we have for some of our large sessions so that means people waiting to get in,” said Dick.
The Ice Arena only seats about four thousand, while the US Cellular Center seats seven thousand.
And there’s competition; at least five other possible sites across the state.
“I don’t want to commit to anything until we have a chance for our board, our staff, to sit and talk and make that decision,” said Dick.
The board will meet on the 19th to vote on which facility will host the tournament this year. And the union won’t guarantee that they’ll be back in 2012 once the US Cellular Center’s renovation is complete.
CEDAR RAPIDS — It wouldn’t be ideal.
But, according to Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union executive director Mike Dick, a one-year arrangement for the state volleyball tournament at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena “appears to be workable.”
Dick and many of his assistant directors took a two-hour tour through the arena Monday morning. He left optimistic that the four-day, 32-team tournament could be held there.
“I’m very pleased,” he said afterward. “There are inherent advantages. Nearby parking is fantastic, and it’s free. The (nine) locker rooms are bigger than those at the U.S. Cellular Center, and there are more.”
The concern is seating. The Ice Arena has 3,800 permanent seats, with the option for 200 standing-room seats, plus the luxury suites at the top.
“That is a major concern,” Dick said. “We had several sessions last year in which the paid tickets exceeded that number.”
Cedar Rapids has been the host of the volleyball tournament since 1991, when the U.S. Cellular Center (then the Five Seasons Center) became the first arena venue, replacing high schools around the Des Moines area. Renovation to the arena will begin before the 2011 tournament (Nov. 9-12), forcing the Union to look elsewhere.
Scott Schoenike is the executive director of the U.S. Cellular Center, the Ice Arena and Paramount Theater. He hosted Monday’s tour.
Also in attendance were Marilee Fowler and Mary Lee Malmberg from the Cedar Rapids Convention and Visitors Bureau, as well as Cedar Rapids Kennedy athletics director Aaron Stecker and Marion High School principal Greg Thomas, a member of the IGHSAU board of directors.
“The Ice Arena is a wonderful facility that offers a lot of benefits the Cellular Center doesn’t,” Schoenike said. “The seating will be tight; a lot depends on the schools (that qualify). That’s the biggest variable.”
Schoenike said that the contract — which runs through 2015 — charges the Union $27,500 for renting the U.S. Cellular Center. The Ice Arena would be made available for a much lower fee, he said.
The arrangement would be for two courts, end to end, for the first three days of the tournament, then one court on championship Saturday. The main rink is 200 feet long, 85 feet wide. A volleyball court is 60-by-30, plus the surrounding playing area.
A 2-inch layer would be placed between the ice and the SportCourt playing surface.
Troy Dannen, athletics director at the University of Northern Iowa and a former IGHSAU executive director, has placed a bid for the 2011 tournament at the McLeod Center. Other possibilities include Wells Fargo Arena and the Knapp Center in Des Moines and Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.
Josh Schamberger, president of the Iowa City/Coralville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, has suggested that the University of Iowa might host the tournament to keep it in the Corridor.
“We’re looking at how we can help Cedar Rapids keep the volleyball championships in the Corridor,” Schamberger said. “We’re not looking to steal girls’ state volleyball. Cedar Rapids is our neighbor and our friend, but they need some help next year. We’re figuring out a way to have girls state volleyball take place at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, understanding that it’s a one-year deal.”
One problem: the Iowa football team hosts Michigan State on Nov. 12.
The IGHSAU board of directors meet Jan. 19, and a decision could be made then.
“We want to be in the best venues for the kids,” Dick said. “We want to put them in a facility in which they’re proud of playing in and we’re proud of hosting.
“We’re not talking about a permanent home. We’re just talking one year.”
As for the tournament’s future, Dick said the U.S. Cellular Center’s breach of contract means that “I can’t give a 100-percent guarantee” that the tournament would return downtown in 2012, though he said the renovations will make it “a wonderful home” for the event.