CEDAR RAPIDS — City leaders said Friday that nothing has really gone wrong with construction at the U.S. Cellular Center, which they said Thursday won’t be finished in time to host the state girls volleyball tournament this November.
Instead, city council members said that the $85 million convention center and $45 million hotel renovation project is simply too complex and can’t be rushed.
“We thought we could concentrate on the arena itself and possibly have it ready. But unfortunately there are so many things that tie together between the arena and convention center we really didn’t take into consideration — and it’s our fault,” said council member Chuck Swore, a retired vice president/general manager at Acme Electric Co. in Cedar Rapids.
Swore said workers could have finished the renovation of the arena floor and seats in time for the November tournament, but not all of the restrooms would have been ready for an expected crowd of thousands.
Access to the arena also would have required plywood corridors or tunnels, Swore said, which would have given off a bad first impression of the project and might not have been permitted by the state fire marshal.
Contractors have run into unexpected hurdles during work at the site. Drilling to put in footings and foundations for the convention center ran into underground debris from century-old buildings that were formerly located there. The same problem happened at the site of the new downtown library.
“I’m sure that had an impact on the overall schedule, because they weren’t able to start some of the construction work until those items were cleared,” said Scott Olson, a fellow city council member and Commercial Realtor.
On Thursday, the city offered incentives to the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union to keep the state volleyball tournament in Cedar Rapids this year. The tournament would again be held at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena, where it was held in 2011. The union is expected to consider the offer at a board meeting May 19.
Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett estimated the incentives amount to about $90,000 over five years. Paying overtime to rush the work at the U.S. Cellular Center would have cost a lot more, however, and the mayor said it wouldn’t have guaranteed that the facility would be ready for guests.