CEDAR RAPIDS — Right now, the site of the 2012 state volleyball tournament is a multiple-choice question:
Will it be at the U.S. Cellular Center?
Will it be at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena?
Will it be somewhere else?
John Frew, project manager for the U.S. Cellular Center, acknowledged that it’s not a lock that the facility will be ready to host the tournament, which is scheduled for Nov. 7-10.
“We’re going to try,” Frew said. “I’m a very cautious guy and I’m not going to make a guarantee.
“There comes a point at which you have to say you can have it completed, or you can’t. We’re very close to making that call.”
Cedar Rapids has hosted the tournament since 1991. Because of renovations to the U.S. Cellular Center, the tournament was moved to the Ice Arena last year.
The Ice Arena won the one-year bid over the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City. Because of the breach of contract by the USCC, the IGHSAU’s 2011 rent of $27,500 was waived.
“It worked as a substitute venue for one year,” said Mike Dick, executive director of the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union. “We would not be happy if we were told we would be asked to use it as a substitute venue for a second year, though it might still be our next best option.
“From everything we’ve been told, this year’s tournament is a go (at the USCC). We’ve tried to be trusting and believe what we’ve been told.”
Marilee Fowler, president and CEO of the Cedar Rapids Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that USCC officials “assured the Girls Union that (the facility) would be ready (for the 2012 tournament).
“This promise was made with the mayor (Ron Corbett) and city manager present,” she said. “I’m going to be an optimist. We’ve got a 21-year event riding on this.”
Corbett said in February that the event has brought the city $18 million in spending over the last 10 years.
Volleyball is one of four girls’ sports (softball, basketball and golf are the others) that are expanding from four classes to five, and the number of qualifying teams from 32 to 40. So the attendance (24,400 last year) and the revenue figure to jump 25 percent in 2012 — wherever it’s played.
Frew said that the USCC’s availability “boils down to whether we can have all the life-safety systems in place — the smoke alarms, evacuation plans, water and sprinkler systems.”
The contract between the IGHSAU and the U.S. Cellular Center runs through 2015. Frew guarantees that the facility will be ready in 2013.
But if it’s not ready this year, there’s no guarantee the Union will come back.
“Kick me once,” shame on you,” Dick said. “Kick me twice, shame on me.”
Cedar Rapids Kennedy has been qualified for the state tournament four straight years, reaching the Class 4A semifinals each time.
“From my (professional) standpoint, it’s great to have it here because the kids are sleeping in their own beds and you’re not paying for hotel expenses,” Kennedy Athletics Director Aaron Stecker said. “It’s huge for the culture and climate of your school if you make it.
“From a community standpoint, for four days each year, the high school sports world is focused on Cedar Rapids.”
The 2013 NCAA Division III national wrestling tournament has been moved from the U.S. Cellular Center to the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena.
Dick said last year’s reaction at the Ice Arena was “mostly favorable.
“Some actually liked it better (than the U.S. Cellular Center),” he said. “They loved the amount of the parking and the fact that it was free. They liked the intimate atmosphere.
“But we desire and expect to be back at the Cellular Center this year. I don’t care if the hotel’s ready or not, as long as we have a place to play.”