LINCOLN — One of the two high school state championships that left Lincoln in recent years is coming back to the city.
The Nebraska School Activities Association board on Wednesday granted the 2014, 2015 and 2016 volleyball championships to Lincoln after a four-year run ends this year in Grand Island.
The renovated Devaney Center and the new Pinnacle Bank Arena will be used for the three-day tournament along with Lincoln's six public high school gyms as needed. Devaney is expected to host the finals once the NSAA determines scheduling.
Lincoln will pay up to $85,000 a year in tournament expenses. Grand Island's bid included a $20,000 annual payment to the NSAA beyond covering all tournament-related expenses.
After only Brian Maher of Kearney and Kent Halley of Mitchell voted to keep the tournament in Grand Island, the eight-member board unanimously accepted Lincoln's bid.
“We are very proud of our community for helping us get to where we are today and voting to make the Pinnacle Bank Arena possible,” said Jeff Maul, executive director of the Lincoln Convention and Visitors Bureau, in a news release.
“With two of the best competition facilities located within 10 minutes of one another, a booming new entertainment district and wonderful city high schools, Lincoln has a lot to show in 2014 and we will welcome many visitors back home to Lincoln.”
Grand Island's organizing committee was “very disappointed,'' spokeswoman Cindy Wells said, “because when we got the bid to bring it back to Grand Island, I think we did everything we needed to do to keep it here.”
Grand Island, along with Hastings, first was awarded the 2010 and 2011 volleyball tournaments and then Grand Island alone was granted the 2012 and 2013 contract.
The NSAA's executive director, Rhonda Blanford-Green, said she believed this was the hardest decision the NSAA board has made since she joined the staff last summer.
“Grand Island has raised the bar for our expectations for state championships across the board,'' she said.
The state wrestling tournament also was in Lincoln until moving to Omaha in 2006.
Wednesday's NSAA board meeting started with a lengthy public comment period concerning transgender students participating in NSAA activities. Controversy arose earlier in the year when Blanford-Green told reporters the board approved a transgender policy in December, then reversed herself when the vote didn't appear in the meeting's minutes.
The board then chose to send the matter through the NSAA's legislative process rather than voting on it Wednesday.
Those who spoke were Greg Logsdon, superintendent of schools at Grand Island Central Catholic; Dave Bydalek of Lincoln, executive director of Family First Nebraska; Jessica Gall of Omaha, education project director for the Anti-Defamation League; Joni Stacy of Omaha, regional director of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays; and Nolan Beyer, director of activities and athletics for Millard Public Schools, who said his district has transgender students.
The World-Herald News Service contributed to this report.