(Council Bluffs, IA) – After an impressive first year in operation, the Iowa West Field House and operating partner Omaha Sports Academy (OSA) exceeded expectations in year two.
When the facility featuring 8 hardwood basketball courts that convert into 12 hardwood volleyball courts opened in early 2017, the Iowa West Foundation had two goals in mind for this initiative. The primary objective was to provide access to court space for southwest Iowa sports teams and to do so for free or reduced rates for community groups who qualified. Secondly, Foundation leadership sought to drive economic development in the Mid-America Center area and overall tourism in Council Bluffs.
According to an OSA report, players in community leagues and Council Bluffs schools took advantage of 3,300 hours of free court time in 2018. This has saved the organizations who utilized the space approximately $133,000.
“From the beginning, we made a commitment to make this facility open and accessible to young athletes and families from southwest Iowa,” said Pete Tulipana, President and CEO of the Iowa West Foundation. “We’re glad to see so many teams taking advantage of all the Field House and surrounding area have to offer.”
COBRA Youth Volleyball Coordinator Alan Byers said the Foundation’s commitment to setting aside time in the Field House at no cost for COBRA youth sports has had a big impact on the number of Council Bluffs and southwest Iowa young athletes participating.
“With the number of courts and time available in the Field House, COBRA has been able to expand its program, resulting in almost 900 young athletes building skills and learning to compete as members of a team this past year,” he said. “Because of Iowa West, we’ve been able to keep expenses to a minimum, and thus offer low cost volleyball and basketball programs.”
The economic impact on the community also can be felt in the data. Nearly 400,000 people passed through the Iowa West Field House doors in 2018. Many of those patrons also needed a place to stay while they were here, so events at the field house resulted in nearly 2,444 hotel stays, a 30 percent increase from 2017. With the Courtyard by Marriott hotel coming online in late September on 2018, that stat could increase next year.
The Field House also allowed for events that had outgrown the Mid-America Center to remain in Council Bluffs by hosting the overflow. Examples include Heartland USA Wrestling Elementary & Middle School Duals and US Open Robotics Championships.
“These competitions draw teams from across the country and in the case of robotics, from around the world,” said Mark Eckman, Executive Director of the Council Bluffs CVB. “Participants, fans, and family members fill Council Bluffs hotel rooms, generating spending at local businesses.”
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