The Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) announced the next four state volleyball tournaments will be played at the Show Me Center.
The 7,000-seat arena in Cape Girardeau will host the tournaments from 2011 to 2014.
The first installment of the four-year deal will take place Nov. 4 and 5, at which time the final four teams in Class 1 to 4 will descend on the area.
It was welcome news for Notre Dame volleyball coach Tara Stroup, who has led her team to the Class 3 final four the past two seasons.
"I knew it was being discussed, but I didn't know it had been decided on," Stroup said when informed Thursday of the news. "That'd be great."
Scott City coach Haley Jennings, who directed the Rams to the Class 2 title in 2009, was also taken by surprise.
"I think that's great," Jennings said. "That will really help the area teams."
The 36-year-old championship has been played the last three years at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo., after having been held in Warrensburg, Mo., for numerous years.
Kansas City attempted to keep the tournament, and Independence, Mo., also bid on the event.
"The MSHSAA Board is very pleased to be able to host one of their state championship events in the Southeast portion of the state," MSHSAA chief financial officer Craig Long said in a release.
Stroup has taken three Notre Dame teams to final fours in her eight years as coach. The first trip was to Warrensburg in 2003, and the last two years the team has traveled about seven hours to Kansas City.
"We'd get some good support, but we didn't have a lot of the kids," Stroup said. "I think had it been closer, I think we would have been able to have more of our students at the games. It was a real good experience, but being closer ... If any of our area teams make it, hopefully they'll have a lot of support. It's exciting."
Stroup said her team was out of town for the better part of four days for the two-day tournament, which opens with round-robin play on a Friday, followed by championship matches on Saturday. Due to late matches the final day, the Bulldogs spent three nights at a Kansas City hotel.
Stroup said O'Hara, a Kansas City school, had factors working in its favor in winning the last four Class 3 titles.
"They were all sleeping in their own beds the night before the games started," Stroup said. "They didn't have a very big crowd at pool play, but when they played in the championship, they had a ton of people. They got good rest, and our girls did, too, but when they're sleeping in a hotel in a different city and there's two to a bed, they rode a bus seven hours the day before, I definitely think it's an advantage to the people that are closer."
Jennings, who will not be returning next season as volleyball coach at Scott City, said her team left on a Wednesday and spent that night in Fulton, Mo., where they practiced at William Woods University. The travel strategy cut down on Thursday travel time and apparently was effective as the Rams went on to win the title.
The Show Me Center has been the site for a portion of a large high school tournament -- the SEMO Spike tournament -- for several years, including the championship game.
"We had a big crowd there, and we won it this past year," Jennings said. "I can imagine what it would be like if the state tournament was there."
And if they are not playing at the final four, local high school coaches and players undoubtedly will be among the fans, especially if other Southeast Missouri teams are involved.
"I know as a coach, and a lot of my players, would like to watch the state championship if anyone in the area was there -- if it wasn't in Kansas City or Columbia," Stroup said.
Jennings anticipates a spike in interest for the sport among people in the region.
"[Volleyball]'s so big around here anyway," Jennings said. "That will really boost it up and get everybody a chance to experience a state tournament."
Local merchants can figure on a spike as well, as business during the tournament weekend undoubtably will pick up as 16 teams converge on the area.
"The hotels, the restaurants, it'll be a good thing for Cape, too," Stroup said. "All the fans coming to stay at the hotels, parents."
The only thing missing will be an actual trip to a state tournament for local teams. Stroup acknowledged that her teams look forward to getting out of town, but she likes the advantages of playing in the team's backyard.
"You get to sleep in your own bed, you'll have more fan support there," Stroup said. "I think it will be a great advantage. It might be different for the girls to just be here, and not get to go stay in hotels, but the other stuff would outweigh that."
But not everyone will benefit from the new arrangement.
"Those Kansas City people now are going to have a pretty long hike to Cape Girardeau," Stroup said, "but that's the way it goes."