Financial woes sink AVP Tour

The Association of Volleyball Professionals Tour, which has a long, illustrious history with the Santa Barbara community, has ceased operations for the remainder of the 2010 season due to financial hardship, the organization announced Friday.

“On behalf of AVP staff we want to express our sincere gratitude to fans, players, partners and sponsors,” said Jason Hodell, AVP CEO, in a statement. “Words cannot express our profound disappointment.”

The biggest names in the AVP and the sport of beach volleyball grew up in Santa Barbara, or have close ties to the community. Players like Karch Kiraly, Todd Rogers, Dax Holdren, Phil Dalhausser and Eric Fonoimoana were the faces of the tour over the years.

The AVP Tour staged 15 tournaments in Santa Barbara going back to 1984. The last tournament was held this past April and May at West Beach. Events also were held at East Beach and Leadbetter Beach.

Besides players, the tour dipped into the community for tournament officials like Rick Olmstead and Brant “B” Lee.

Retired San Marcos coach Jon Lee, who groomed Rogers, Holdren, Anthony Medel and other AVP players when they were in high school, worked as a broadcaster for the AVP and covered the tour as a print journalist.

UCSB coach Kathy Gregory helped develop top women players like Brooke Hanson.

The AVP’s ties with Santa Barbara were everywhere.

And now it’s over and done because the money ran out.

Rogers, in an email to Presidiosports.com from Norway, where he and Dalhausser are playing on the international FIVB Tour, expressed his disappointment in the news of the AVP’s collapse, but he wasn’t surprised.

“Phil and I are bummed out but not surprised that the AVP has run out of money. All signs over the past four months pointed to the AVP needing either sponsors or investment money to complete this season,” he said. “We signed up for Kristiansand, Norway and Aland, Finland because of that.  Certainly it will be a bit of a financial hit for Phil and I but I feel for the other players who don’t have the FIVB as an option.  That is who it is going to hit the most.

“I also feel for all the AVP junior staff and the folks who contracted with the AVP to help with stats etc. … that may be owed money.  There are going to be a lot of people hurt in this and that is unfortunate.  Hopefully there will be a light at the end of the tunnel the AVP just entered.  I know there were a lot of interested parties and perhaps one or more of them sees the great possibilities with this sport and will pick it up for next year.  At least that is my fervent hope.”

The final five tournaments wiped out were in Manhattan Beach, Chicago, Mason, Ohio San Francisco and Hermosa Beach.

“Through the course of this investor search we have encountered individuals and groups with intelligence, common sense and a passion for the game of beach volleyball,” commissioner Mike Dodd said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the time constraints were such that pulling the trigger on the amount of money necessary to salvage this season were too great. Ironically this sad news comes as we approach the 50th anniversary of the Manhattan Open, our sport’s crown jewel and the one event that showed us all we could dream big. The Open has seen its ups and downs over the years and always persevered. I’m sure our sport will do the same.”

The Manhattan Open will go on next weekend. The California Beach Volleyball Association will run the tournament but without the stadium seating and grandstands.

For the past 23 years the AVP Tour has featured arguably the best beach volleyball in the world, with AVP athletes winning at least one gold medal in every Olympics since beach volleyball became an Olympic sport in 1996. Kiraly won the first one in Atlanta in 96. Fonoimoana was victorious in Australia in 2000 and Rogers brought home gold from China in 2008. Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh won back-to-back golds in 2004 (Athens, Greece) and  in 2008.

With a hope but no certainty that it can be revived in 2011, the AVP’s collapse throws into flux the qualification process for the 2012 Olympics in London. While in the past players qualified for the Games by earning points on the world tour, control over the 2012 qualifying had been turned over to the domestic governing bodies.

USA Volleyball CEO Doug Beal said a plan was being discussed in which athletes would use the international and domestic tours to qualify for an Olympic trials tournament that would pick the teams for London. He said he is optimistic that there will be some form of U.S. tour in 2011, whether or not it’s the AVP.

“I hope the AVP survives, and if it doesn’t I hope there’s something to replace it. We fully expect that that will be the case,” Beal told the Associated Press. “We very much want to see the AVP … survive and prosper. They are unquestionably important for the development of the sport in this country, as well as our success internationally.

“It has certainly been an iconic portion of our sport and helped it garner incredible visibility and attention and exposure for the game of volleyball.”

In his blog on the AVP.com, former player Hans Stolfus lamented about the end of the tour.

“Our time is up; our run is over. What we see today will unfortunately be gone tomorrow and there’s simply nothing we can do now to stop it,” he wrote.

Stolfus also got comments from a few tour players, including Medel.

“I can’t even put into words what a tremendous amount of sadness I’m feeling at this very moment. I don’t really want to dwell on that, but rather share a few of my fondest memories of a sport that has given me what few people get to experience – the rush of the crowd in a huge stadium, thousands deep; beating the 2008 gold medalists to reach my first AVP final; playing the sport I love and supporting myself doing just that…with each endless summer running seamlessly into the next,” Medel said.

“The AVP, and volleyball, in general, has been my life ever since I was 13 years old. I fell in love with this sport years ago and always wanted to play on the AVP Tour someday. I wanted to be just like Karch. Did I mention I got to compete against him 7 or 8 times? What an honor and a privilege. I really did get to live out my dream even if it was cut a bit short. …

“It has been my passion and my life for many years. I hope that the next generation of players can have the opportunity to strive to be the next great beach volleyball players of the future, and be able to experience the wonderful world of competitive beach volleyball like I have.”

Wrote Jake Gibb, who also plays on the FIVB Tour with Sean Rosenthal, “The thought of (the AVP Tour) not being around just doesn’t seem right. It has been the direct reason why the USA has won 4 gold medals in the Olympics. It’s where the dead average (in my case) learns to become the elite in the world. Damn, I don’t know what to say. Just writing this makes me bummed.”

Said Angie Akers: “To think that so many great players will most likely hang it up and move on to a new phase of life is sad. So much talent with no place to go. It is devastating to even think about. … There are so many loyal fans who have become part of the AVP family and to think we may never hear their cheers again is a tragedy.”

Story includes information from the Associated Press and AVP.com

Comments

  1. Re: ” And now it’s over and done because the money ran out.”

    Not True! The AVP has only announced that this season is over. What a sensationalist you are!

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