Many Girls Volleyball Fans Don't Mind Temporary Tournament Site for Second Year

By Dave Franzman, Reporter

The state volleyball tournament gets underway with Class 5A quarterfinals at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday. November 7, 2012. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)

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By Liz Blood

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - It’s Girls State Volleyball time in Cedar Rapids again this week and for the second year in a row the players, coaches and thousands of fans are in a temporary location. Work on the U.S. Cellular Center arena couldn’t finish in time this fall to bring the biggest yearly sporting event in Cedar Rapids back downtown.

So like 2011, the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union (IGHSAU) agreed to use the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena as a substitute for the event than runs Wednesday through Saturday. But rather than complain, some fans actually don’t mind the delay because they like the free parking around the ice arena and prefer the smaller setting for watching games.

Greg Wandrey, who followed his daughter’s team from Ankeny, said he was disappointed at first last year to learn the tournament would take place at a temporary location. But he quickly grew to enjoy the ice arena and wouldn’t mind if league officials stayed at the same location.

“It’s not my decision, but I like it here better just because it’s a more intimate environment,” Wandrey said.

Another Ankeny fan, John Baumhauer, also attended the tournament last year at the ice arena. He’s also gone to tournaments at the old U.S. Cellular Center and appreciates some of the conveniences of the temporary location.

“It’s easier to get to, easier to plan to get to. But we enjoyed the place downtown as well,” he said.

Tournament organizers are glad fans don’t mind the temporary site for a second year. But with total attendance averaging 30,000 over the four day event, not having enough seats to sell is an economic hardship. Still, IGHSAU director Mike Dick said the substitute arena has worked out rather well. However, he thinks players, coaches and fans will like what they see when the downtown project is complete.

“We toured it about six weeks ago and we can’t wait to get in it and see how neat it’s going to be for the kids, the fans and the communities. There’s a lot of talk from people who can’t wait to see what it’s going to be like,” Dick said.

While awaiting the location switch in 2013, the girls athletic union is making some changes that could also boost attendance. This year, the tournament added a class that will mean more teams and more fans. And next year, the tournament will run Tuesday through Friday to avoid losing fans to college sports.

Local convention and visitor’s bureau officials estimate direct state girls volleyball spending at about $1.8-million dollars. It’s been the single biggest sporting event hosted by the U.S. Cellular Center arena for more than 20 years. And the switch to a totally renovated arena next year shouldn’t change that distinction.

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