Iowa high school volleyball tournament moving to Coralville

Cedar Rapids has hosted annual championship since 1991

The Xtream Arena in Coralville is set up for the Iowa women's volleyball team. CREDIT JLG ARCHITECTS

The Iowa state high school volleyball tournament is leaving Cedar Rapids and will be played at the Xtream Arena in Coralville beginning in November 2022.

The Board of Directors of the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union (IGHSAU) announced the change in an emailed news release Dec. 17. The tournament has been played at the Alliant Energy PowerHouse, formerly known as the Five Seasons Center and U.S. Celluar Center, in downtown Cedar Rapids every year since 1991, with the exception of a two-year stint at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena in the wake of the 2008 flood.

“We are excited to bring the state volleyball tournament to Xtream Arena and Coralville,” IGHSAU executive director Jean Berger said in a news release. “Xtream Arena is the premier volleyball venue in Iowa. We look forward to our partnership with the staffs at the arena and Think Iowa City.”

Mike Silva, executive director of the Cedar Rapids Tourism Office, offered an historical perspective to the situation.

“Since the Cedar Rapids Tourism Office first opened our doors in 2018, we have been going above and beyond to turn the downtown ‘pink’ and transform the arena and convention center into a first class experience for the high school girls,” Mr. Silva said. “This generational event has been a touchstone for daughters and their mothers for so many years, and we are deeply saddened that the tournament has left Cedar Rapids for this next period of time.

“That being said,” he added, “Cedar Rapids is not defined by this one tournament. Over the past couple of years, the Tourism Office has sponsored dozens of volleyball, wrestling, baseball, softball, gymnastics, cheer, and tennis events ranging from youth tournaments to NCAA, NJCAA and NAIA championships.  The Tourism Office has hosted these in conjunction with our local partners including the American Rivers Conference, Kirkwood Community College, Upper Iowa University, and many others.  These events have been hosted at the Alliant Energy PowerHouse venue and many other facilities throughout the county.  The Cedar Rapids Tourism Office continues to have strong relationships with these tournaments and leagues, and our staff is actively working to attract these and other sports – both traditional and non-traditional – to play at our local venues to maximize economic impact for the area.”

Iowa City and Cedar Rapids had each submitted a bid for the tournament in the fall to host next year’s tournament, and while IGHSAU officials originally intended to announce a decision in January, the IGHSAU had already completed its evaluation and wanted to announce a decision so that both facilities’ management teams could move forward with booking plans.

In a virtual news conference Dec. 17, Ms. Berger said the agreement with the Xtream Arena will run for a minimum of five years. She also maintained that finances weren’t a primary factor in the IGHSAU board’s decision.

“We try to make a decision on what we think is best for the Iowa girl,” she said. “We try to go to a facility that we think offers the best championship experience. The financials usually aren’t at the top of the decisions that we’re making. Certainly they’re important, and our board reviewed those. But it was the facility itself – the ribbon board, the video boards, the locker rooms, the parking around (it), the geography of what’s there for people to do – we really felt that it gives us a tremendous opportunity to grow this tournament. You have the GreenState Family Fieldhouse that gives us opportunity for practice and warm-up, and that’s going to benefit our teams too. There are a lot of reasons that we ended up with the decision, and finances was one of them. But it certainly was not a major factor.”

“We do have big shoes to fill,” Josh Schamberger, president of Think Iowa City + Iowa City Area Sports Commission, said at the Dec. 17 news conference. “It has been a fantastic relationship between the city of Cedar Rapids and the girls state union, and we knew that was going to be a challenge just having them entertain our proposal. We were excited for that challenge and appreciative of the standard that truly has been set. My entire family for the most part is from the Cedar Rapids area, and I have a deep appreciation for that community. It’s tough at times when you have opportunities like this and it’s this community versus that community. But this is the nature of the work that we do, and couldn’t be more proud of this facility and excited for for what’s to come.”

Ms. Berger also acknowledged there was an emotional component to the board’s decision.

“People on our board are veterans,” she said. (Some of) our board members have (served) eight to 10 years on our board, so the nostalgia of being at a place and the relationships you build are important. All along, that’s what Cedar Rapids has – they had the heart that we knew, and we do have a connection to them. We could work with Cedar Rapids again in some fashion and some championship somewhere down the road. We feel good about them. But this is about what’s doing what’s best for our organization, and for the girls playing the sport, and the ability to give them a championship experience. And ultimately, that was the focus of our decisions.”

The 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 that is accessible from the event level. The facility has two high-definition video boards, a 360-degree ribbon board and LED lighting, along with 12 suites and a 180-person club suite. The arena is home to the University of Iowa volleyball team as well as the Iowa Heartlanders ECHL hockey team.

Xtream Arena is only the second centralized venue the state volleyball tournament will call home since the sport was sanctioned by the IGHSAU in 1973. Prior to moving to Cedar Rapids in 1991, the tournament was hosted at various high schools across the state.

Cedar Rapids economic development officials have said the tournament brings an average of $2 million to the city annually. Mr. Schamberger said he would expect a comparable impact in Coralville, but noted a detailed study will be conducted to measure that impact.