CEDAR RAPIDS – In August, the Cedar Rapids Titans confirmed they would play in the U.S. Cellular Center, which is now fully operational after repairs from the 2008 flood.
Now, five months later, the Titans have another new home – this one for practice. The Titans have signed a one year agreement, with a one year option, to practice at Game Winning Entertainment Sports Center, a facility in northeast Cedar Rapids.
“We looked at several real estate buildings (before GWE) and really couldn’t find something that would fit because we needed a clear-span building,” said Chris Kokalis, co-owner and general manager of the Titans. “We met with Scott Weiss and folks over at GWE and talked about our mission and our goals, and what we were looking to accomplish, and liked his setup.
“We were able to negotiate a deal that worked, and allowed us to continue to provide soccer programming in the community, along with continuing to provide a feasible home for Titans training and practices as well.”
Kokalis, who is also the co-owner of the Bemidji Axemen, had to find a new home for the Titans to practice in after the SportZone in Hiawatha was recently sold.
When looking for a new place to practice for the football team, Kokalis also had to find a facility that would accommodate his other youth leagues as well.
Enter the GWE Sports Center.
“(SportZone) not only meant a lot to the Titans, but it also meant a lot to the local soccer community because that really was the only location for youth soccer to practice indoors during the winter months,” Kokalis said. “(The sale) not only affected us, but it affected them.
“I made the commitment on our facebook page and vocally to members of the soccer community that we were committed to them, just as they had been committed to us. Because without them assisting (the Titans) with utilizing that building, we wouldn’t have been able to sustain it. I made a commitment that we were going to do what we could to make sure they had an indoor space to call home.”
GWE general manager Kevin Schuver said the deal was a pretty easy one for the Sports Center to make. The Titans are funding renovations to the facility that will allow for more space for both football practice and the soccer league, as well as installing new turf and netting around the walls.
In what has become primarily a baseball training facility – Schuver and others provide private lessons to members year-round – the Titans deal will bring in an influx of new people.
“There’s not a lot of other professional or semi-professional teams around, so it’s kinda cool to get our hands on it, and have them call this place home,” Schuver said. “They’re coming in and making new renovations, so it’s good for us and good for them. It’s a win-win.
“We’re excited about it.
As it stands, the deal gives the Titans options for the future, including those outside of GWE.
Though Kokalis shares his excitement for the new practice venue with Schuver and GWE, the co-owner and general manager of the Titans said he and his business partners are exploring ideas of building their own venue.
“Ultimately I think there’s myself and a few other parties in the community that are interested in putting more of a long-term, multi-use complex together, and we’re beginning the planning stages on that,” Kokalis said. “But until that happens, we need something to call home.”
So for now, the Titans and GWE have at least one year together. The partnership kicks in Tuesday, when the Titans have their first practice at the Sports Center. The team will have two final practices at SportZone, as it will hold training camp there today and Sunday.
Once the team has been paired down from the 40 entering camp to the 24 that will make the final roster, the new venue could see, in the words of Kokalis, perhaps the best team the Titans have put together in their three years in Cedar Rapids.
“It’s really exciting. I’ve never felt as amped for a season as I do with the talent we’ve got coming in,” Kokalis said. “We are putting together a group of young men that range from fresh out of college to guys who have (Indoor Football League) experience. It’s a very balanced football team.”