Volleyball Tour Heats Up Winter With Indoor Beach Parties
You can't exactly bottle up California and ship it overnight to Minnesota. But you can, apparently, deliver Minnesotans, Ohioans and other people in snow-covered flyover country a little skin, a little tequila and about 20 tons of sand — all in a day's work. That's what AVP Pro Volleyball Tour Inc. and entertainment giant AEG teamed up to do in the dead of winter in 18 U.S. cities during the first ever Hot Winter Nights indoor beach volleyball tour.
Not only did people in places including Albany, N.Y., La Crosse, Wis., and Trenton, N.J., get to see some of the country's top beach and indoor volleyball players and former Olympians compete, they got to see them in a heated arena — nay, a "hot, hot, hot" arena, according to the television advertising message delivered to the local markets. Some of the participating athletes apparently saw the tour as a kind of cultural mission. "We are trying to bring the 'Baywatch' attitude, the 'Baywatch' atmosphere, to the Midwest," three-time Olympian Jeff Nygaard told the La Crosse Tribune.
In fact, AVP, a self-described "lifestyle sports entertainment company" backed by sponsors such as Crocs and Jose Cuervo, marketed the tour as much as a party as it did a sporting event ("While everyone else will be sipping cocoa and trying to keep warm, the AVP will heat things up with the hottest beach parties all winter long"). "We have tan bodies, the bikinis, the board shorts, all that stuff," Nygaard told Tribune reporter Jeff Brown. "Beach volleyball means you have that Californianess."
But it also means you must have the beach. And while indoor beach volleyball is not a new concept, putting it on tour is. Ted Ballweg, assistant manager for sales and marketing at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wis., the tour's fifth stop, said the facility was greeted by 13 truckloads of sand — enough to fill a 16-square-meter court blocked off by synthetic panels resembling railroad ties. To prevent dust, the sand was moisturized. "Dealing with sand is really a lot easier than dealing with dirt. Dirt gets clogged in your ventilation system," says Ballweg, adding that the Alliant Center's range of annual events requires the installation of about 10 different surfaces. "After a couple days we were still finding some sand around, but you've already got to clean up spilled soda, so you may as well clean up sand."
While early indications were that attendance at the tour stops was just lukewarm, AVP players, at least, enjoyed covering new ground. "They're the most accessible athletes you're ever going to meet," AVP emcee Chris McGee told The Oklahoman during an Oklahoma City visit. "Where else can you walk down to the floor that they're playing on, get autographs and take pictures?" Still, some cultural differences were apparent, at least to AVP player Nancy Mason, who told the paper, "People are in hats and coats and mittens and we're in our bikinis."
Facility of the Week
Ithaca College Athletics and Events Center