Spiking in Popularity
14 Nov, 2018By: Tracey Schelmetic
Something powerful happened in the sport of volleyball. In 2015, for the first time, more high school girls played volleyball (432,176) than basketball (429,504), according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. The following year, USA Volleyball reported that its membership reached an all-time high of 334,000. Participation numbers are trending higher in both indoor and beach volleyball, as well as sitting volleyball, the Paralynpic version of the sport. USAV’s indoor high-performance participation saw a nearly 15 percent spike from 2015 to 2016. There is evidence that increasingly, African-Americans are leaving basketball for volleyball. The strongest growth, however, is among girls and women.
“Over the past eight years, women’s volleyball has seen constant growth,” said Steve Bailey, director of events for the Junior Volleyball Association. “The last two Olympic cycles have really helped people see and understand high-level volleyball.”
With participation numbers pushing upward, opportunities to host also spike.
“With the constant growth, more families have realized there are college scholarship opportunities,” said Bailey. “In addition, many players continue after their school days are over. Most of the volleyball regions throughout the country host events for adults as well.”
Following are some regions and venues around the country that regularly play host to volleyball events.
Girls’ volleyball has been a big draw in State College, Pennsylvania, for more than 30 years. Prior to 2007, East Coast Volleyball held its annual tournament in State College every Memorial Day weekend. (It has since grown and moved to Pittsburgh.) In 2008, the Memorial Day tradition was picked up by Penn State University, and the Happy Volley Club Championship and Camp debuted. The event began with 230 teams and has grown to 410 teams.
“It’s a great event for kids who love volleyball, and it’s looked at as a family holiday vacation by many,” said Shirley Smith, director of sales for the Central Pennsylvania CVB.
The area also attracts adult tournaments, including the Big 10 Men and Women, the P.I.A.A. State Championships, the NCAA Men & Women, the Pennsylvania Special Olympics and the Keystone State Games. There are a variety of venues available, including the 15,000-seat Bryce Jordan Center on the Penn State University campus, the IM Building, Recreation Hall, the White building, Holuba Hall and the C-3 Sports Facility. Together, the venues offer 50 courts.
There are also attractions outside of the competition floor. Local favorites include Penn’s Cave & Wildlife Park in Centre Hall. State College is renowned for its natural beauty, and the parks in the area feature some of the best mountain biking east of the Rockies.
Central Pennsylvania has 3,600 hotel rooms, and downtown State College offers shopping and dining, as do Boalsburg and Bellefonte. Most visitors to the area drive from surrounding mid-Atlantic metropolitan areas, all of which are only a few hours away.
Conway in central Arkansas hosts both Fatchmo Volley volleyball tournaments as well as Conway Junior Volleyball events, including the Conway Classic Blast. One of the venues of choice is the Conway Sports Center, a 44,000-square-foot facility that can hold six courts. In addition, there is the McGee Center, a 46,600-square-foot facility that has six courts and features two meeting rooms.
The region is accessible – it’s 30 miles from Little Rock and adjacent to I-40 – and family-friendly. There are 1,400 area hotel rooms and a variety of local and chain eateries. Downtown Conway has shopping and live music, and the surrounding areas have an indoor trampoline park and a water park.
“Our downtown area is full of local boutiques, furniture stores and restaurants, but we also have two larger shopping areas with some well-known stores,” said Rachel Shaw, director of destination marketing for the Conway CVB and Conway Area Chamber of Commerce. “The Conway Commons are located close to many of our hotels and, Lewis Crossing is a new shopping area that opened in 2017.”
For event planners, the Conway CVB provides grants, special rates for hotels and welcome packets. The bureau can also connect events with local businesses for sponsorship opportunities.
Fayetteville, North Carolina
Between January and March, Fayetteville’s Freedom Courts Sportsplex hosts between 18 and 20 volleyball tournaments, many affiliated with Carolina Region Volleyball. Freedom Courts Sportsplex is a 47,000-square-foot venue with 27-foot ceilings that can accommodate four regulation-size courts or 10 practice courts, complete with a concession stand and a Starbucks. In addition, there is the Crown Complex, a four-building campus that hosts a variety of tournaments on its 60’ x 30’ court.
Fayetteville has a variety of attractions for visitors, including hundreds of special events. There are more than 500 restaurants and 7,000 hotel rooms in the region, as well as The Airborne & Special Operations Museum and the 77-acre Botanical Gardens.
“We have three live theaters, two wine cafes, and live music. We also offer 18 themed driving trails that take visitors to sites based on their interest,” said John Meroski, Fayetteville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (FACVB) president and CEO.
The FACVB offers event planners public relations support, support staff, special event coordination, meeting services and site selection visits.
Since the Foley Event Center opened in September 2017, Foley has been busy with volleyball events.
“Many of our events are girls’ club volleyball events sanctioned by the USA Volleyball Gulf Coast Region,” said Stephanie Donald, marketing and communications manager for Foley Sports Tourism. “We’re hosting a growing number of high school and middle school tournaments as well. So far this year, we’ve hosted 10 volleyball tournaments. For 2019, we have 12 more confirmed.”
The Foley Event Center is a 90,000-square-foot building that holds 12 courts. Nets are automated (they drop down from the ceiling) and are adjustable in height. The peaked roof provides 45 feet of clearance in the center. Seating can be adjusted to accommodate the event’s needs, and there are two mezzanines and five breakout rooms.
For the off-hours, Foley is seven miles from the Alabama Gulf Coast. It’s also home to a new entertainment destination, OWA, which has a 21-ride amusement park, shopping, a TownePlace Suites hotel and restaurants. Foley is within a six-hour drive of most of the Southeast.
“Foley Sports Tourism is a one-stop shop, not only for partners looking to play, stay, shop and dine in one location, but also for services from sales to marketing to operations, all in-house,” said Donald.
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Gulf Shores has a pedigree when it comes to volleyball, particularly beach volleyball. The city, together with Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Sports Commission, hosts the NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship and various Gulf Coast Region USA Volleyball beach tournaments each year. (In fact, it hosted the championships before they even made it to the NCAA level and now, will host the NCAA championships through 2022.)
Beach volleyball events are held on the Gulf Shores Public Beach. For the NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship, a restaurant and entertainment complex called The Hangout is brought into service.
When courts are set up, the beach can accommodate 10 championship courts (five for practice and five for championship matches), bleacher seating, walkways, VIP areas, team tents, sponsor areas and courtside seating. The event has received national television exposure as well.
“Club teams hold events at Gulf Shores High and Middle Schools, Orange Beach Sportsplex, Orange Beach Event Center at the Wharf and on the beach,” said Beth Gendler, vice president of the Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Sports Commission. “We have multiple spots for meetings, breakouts and banquets and can accommodate up to 1,000 attendees for meals and meetings.”
Because the area is a beach resort, there’s a variety of hotels, restaurants and family activities. The Sports Commission can offer on-site event coordination as well as housing bureau services, grants, welcome bags and coupons, social media and public relations, volunteer information and vendor referrals.
Providence, Rhode Island
In April of this year, JVC Volleyball ran its first tournament in Rhode Island, a girls’ event called The Rhode Island Rumble. The event, which featured 180 teams, sold out the Rhode Island Convention Center six months in advance. The 125,000-square-foot building, which has 32-foot ceilings, can accommodate 24 courts. In response to the demand, the JVC, which works in conjunction with the New England Regional Volleyball Association, added five more courts at Rhode Island College, and the event still sold out.
“They’ve now booked two weekends for 2019 and expect to double attendance,” said John Gibbons of the Rhode Island Sports Commission. “Beginning in 2020, we’ll be doing three weekends. We went from doing almost no volleyball events here in Rhode Island to exploding to three weekends.”
Additionally, the AAU will hold the Providence Grand Prix & Showcase at the Convention Center in February, featuring about 60 teams, and the New England Championships in March. The Convention Center, which also has a 20,000-square-foot ballroom, is surrounded by hotels, including a 560-room Omni Hotel that is attached.
“We can put together 1,000 rooms downtown with double occupancy,” said Gibbons. “Nearby is also the Providence Place Mall, which has a few hundred stores and restaurants. Attached to the convention center is the 35,000-square-foot Dunkin Donuts Center.”
Both JVC and the sports commission can help recruit volunteers for events. The sports commission will put together hotel packages and offers marketing and public relations, including banners and micro web sites. It also has a staff photographer and videographer.
Rocky Mount Event Center, North Carolina
In October, Rocky Mount celebrated the opening of its 165,00-square-foot Rocky Mount Event Center. The multi-use facility has 75,000 square feet of floor space, four locker rooms, team meeting rooms, concessions and an observation deck. The field house features 60-foot ceilings and oak floor surfaces, making it well-suited for volleyball events.
“It’s very much Rocky Mount’s intention to attract volleyball events,” said Ashley Pittman, RMEC’s marketing manager. “Our facility can accommodate 16 volleyball courts and other functions for tournaments and championships. RMEC has the ability to hold 4,000 spectators.”
The Rocky Mount area has a lot to offer for off-hours, but the event center comes with its own built-in attractions: Gameday Adventure and Arcade, a 15,000-square-foot area that includes themed rock climbing, an aerial ropes course, a soft play area, an arcade and a concession area.
The Rocky Mount region, a drive-in location situated off I-95 and US 64, features 2,500 hotel rooms and more than 100 restaurants and leisure activities. The adjacent Rocky Mount Sports Complex has a park and trails for outdoor activities, a spray park and pool and a golf course.
Wildwood, New Jersey
Given Wildwood’s location on five miles of white-sand Atlantic beaches, it’s no surprise that it’s a haven for beach volleyball. But even indoor players like a spectacular view of the ocean.
“We haven’t hosted an indoor volleyball event in our Convention Center to date, but we’re actively trying to secure volleyball events,” said Ben Rose of the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority (GWTIDA).
The area has the facilities for indoor volleyball, including a 73,000-square-foot exhibit hall with 30-foot ceilings, ocean views and retractable seating to accommodate 4,000. The beach, however, is where Wildwood’s expertise is, and the resort has 12 permanent beach courts and the ability to set up an unlimited number of additional courts. It’s the home of the Wildwood Beach Ultimate (W2BU) Tournament held every July.
“We have hosted a number of events on the beach at our 2,000-seat venue and various other beach locations,” said Rose.
The destination is easily accessible for travelers from New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia and New England. There are over 8,000 hotel-motel rooms and 3,000 vacation rentals in the Wildwoods, and the Boardwalk area has restaurants, shopping, arcades and other attractions. The GWTIDA will help event planners with all aspects of tournament planning, including grants and housing bureau services. SDM