Coralville's Xtream Arena opens its doors; new businesses — inside and out — hope to cash in
Coralville city administrator Kelly Hayworth speaks about the new ECHL hockey team that will call the Xtream Arena its home, Sept. 17, 2020. Iowa City Press-Citizen
After more than a year of construction and decades of planning, Coralville's new Xtream Arena finally opened to the public.
"It's an incredible pleasure and honor to be here today," Coralville Mayor John Lundell said as he took the stage in front of the massive arena. "It's something that's been discussed and planned for decades — 30-plus years to get where we've come today."
More than 100 people gathered Wednesday evening for a presentation marked by acoustic covers from local musician Just Goodchild, appearances by Iowa volleyball head coach Vicki Brown and Herky the Hawk, and the public announcement that the arena will be home to an as-of-yet unnamed ECHL team for next year's season.
Following this, local leaders lined up to cut the yellow ribbon stretched in front of the arena and welcomed members of the public inside, where Hawkeye volleyball players practiced. Another open house is scheduled for 1-4 p.m. Sunday with "tours, demonstrations and refreshments" at the arena as part of its grand opening weekend.
As time goes on, a 100-room hotel owned by Kinseth Hospitality Companies will also be opening in the building alongside more retail businesses.
With the persistence of the COVID-19 pandemic, many who wanted to may not be able to get a look at Coralville's newest building this weekend. Because of that, the Press-Citizen has detailed many of the businesses operating in various capacities within the arena:
Spectra is the company in charge of booking events for the new arena. Another aspect of the company's operations included scouting the local businesses to help fulfill arena services.
"We really wanted to focus on the local (businesses)," said Josh Kleimeyer, the director of partnerships with Spectra Venue Management and a 2008 City High graduate.
"We really want to have that uniqueness," he added. "It does have that local feel, it doesn’t look like your cookie-cutter arena.”
Guild Wurst Tavern
If you walk through the main entrance of the Xtream Arena, one of the first businesses you'll see ahead of you is the Guild Wurst Tavern.
It's likely many locally based visitors will also see the business's main location at 53 2nd St. on their way to the arena. Though the arena location will not have the full menu of its parent location, customers can expect to see burgers, fries and the location's array of house-made sausages.
Kelley Carter, the marketing and event coordinator for Guild, remembered when she was a high schooler in the area. Back then, the Marriott hotel was the biggest development on the Iowa River Landing.
Now, Carter is thrilled to see Guild and other recognizable names populating Coralville's biggest development yet.
“It adds to the Coralville experience," she said. "You don’t just get a chain meal, you know that’s it’s something that came down from less than a mile away.”
A year ago, Brandon Pratt wouldn't have been able to open the Pizza Ranch inside the Xtream Arena.
According to Pratt, contracts for Pizza Ranch locations got a little iffy where Coralville was involved, given its location between Iowa City, where he was allowed to operate, and North Liberty — previously the purview of another business owner.
Within the last 12 months, though, Pratt has gained the North Liberty right for Pizza Ranch, marked by the refurbishing of that 395 Beaver Kreek Center location earlier this year. The timing matched up almost perfectly for him to deploy in the new facility.
“Everything ordered at the (Xtream Arena) concessions will be the small personal pizzas," Pratt explained. "However, having a location in Iowa City — (with) multiple pizzas and or other products — we’d be able to bring our entire menu into the field house for private parties.”
The Xtream Arena has been in the works long enough that owners and employees at the Iowa River Landing’s Backpocket Brewery have been waiting the entirety of the brewery’s life for the arena to open.
“We’ve been here for eight years, we’ve been waiting for it to come into the area — into the neighborhood,” Aaron Vargas, a managing partner at Backpocket Brewing, told the Press-Citizen.
Vargas said Backpocket plans to have two of its beverages — Slingshot and Raygun Vol. 2 — available in arena coolers with some other limit beers on tap.
Almost Famous Popcorn
Bill Rieckhoff had two choices: open a new Almost Famous Popcorn in either Des Moines or Coralville.
“I wanted to open two stores this year," Rieckhoff, the business's owner, recalled. "Thankfully, my wife said ‘you can have one and not two’ — this was in the early part of the year, pre-COVID.”
Knowing he had a presence in Coralville/Iowa City-area Hy-Vees, served food at Hawkeye sporting events and would have a place in the Xtream Arena, Rieckhoff opted to open his specialized popcorn company in Des Moines with the hope of finding another home in Coralville in the future.
The Cedar Rapids-based company won't have a particular dedicated space in the same way Pizza Ranch and Guild do; rather, its flavored popcorn will be sold in different places around the arena. Similar to those same vendors, though, Almost Famous will be offering a more reduced version of its offerings.
The company boasts more than 150 flavors of popcorn, Rieckhoff said, and three will be available at the arena: caramel, caramel cheddar mix and "Summer Lovin’," the latter of which contains a variety of fruit flavors.
Big Grove Brewery
Although Big Grove Brewery does not have a designated space in the new facility, its product will be sold by arena vendors.
"We started working with the idea of a unique beer around six months ago," Big Grove owner Matt Swift told the Press-Citizen.
The specialty beer is called Headliner and will be sold at Xtream Arena exclusively for the time being. According to Swift, the drink is a light beer, with a 4.2% alcohol content.
Swift is also the owner of 30 Hop, a neighboring restaurant on the Iowa River Landing, and is preparing to open up another restaurant across the street in October called Tribute Eatery and Bar.
“I think it’s going to be a different offering, the food is going to be a really classic America fare. I think the atmosphere is going to be really attractive to people," Swift said, describing a burger and fries menu with mahogany tables and leather booths throughout the interior. "30 Hop is a really open space; this is a little more intimate.”
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