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Dig into your wallet for sandside seat at AVP tournament

Steve Yingling

OK, give them a break. It’s their rookie year.

But unfortunately Tahoe may only have one shot to keep its slot on the Association of Volleyball Professionals Tour.

Somebody will make a killing this weekend, and this has nothing to do with Mike Whitmarsh’s and Karch Kiraly’s power around the net.

Transplanted Southern Californians remember the days when they could watch Sinjin Smith, Gene Selznick and Mike Dodd for free. Don’t count on any freebies this weekend, although the AVP is making a sporting gesture by selling all tickets on Friday for $6.

But that generosity will cease over the weekend when ticket prices escalate to $10 to $35 per person.

With an estimated seating capacity of 2,500 for the three-day Miller Lite-sponsored event at Heavenly Ski Resort, the AVP should show up with rakes in their back pockets.

“It’s ridiculous that they’re charging people to watch beach volleyball. They don’t have to pay anything additional. The sponsors pay for the whole setup. They’re just raking more money into their pockets,” said Selznick, a part-time Zephyr Cove resident who is sometimes referred to as the “Father of Beach Volleyball.”

“It’s different if they’re playing in an arena. They should allow people to see beach volleyball for the first time and not have to pay for it.”

Several years ago, the tour began charging for box seats. Jerry Solomon, chief executive office of the AVP, said rising costs necessitated charging for all seating last year.

“I understand some people are diehard traditionalists and don’t want things to change, but unfortunately as the sport has grown and as our need to provide a better product for our fans has grown, our expenses to operate the tour have grown geometrically,” Solomon said.

Solomon feels spectators will get better volume for their dollar by attending beach volleyball than they would at an NBA, NFL or NHL venue.

“We’re happy that we’re able to keep prices at a reasonable rate where families can afford to spend a day at the beach with the AVP. Our tickets prices are for a full day’s activity,” Solomon said. “It’s far less than what you would pay for professional basketball, baseball or football, where you go for two to three hours. With the AVP you spend less and get a full day’s activity.”

As for the drastic rise in ticket prices for the weekend, Solomon offers several reasons.

“It’s no different than tennis or golf, where there are low ticket prices in the earlier rounds, compared to a premium price for the later rounds when the matches are better, there’s more on the line and better players are featured,” he said.

Obviously, Tahoeans are caught in a bind if they want to keep the event: either pay or watch some other small town ante up.

After its fantastic Olympic exposure last summer, beach volleyball is evolving from a party atmosphere into a big business. While else would the tour decline a Lake Tahoe setting for Heavenly’s spacious parking lot.

“They should show Lake Tahoe as Lake Tahoe. It would be different if we didn’t have a beach, but we do have one,” Selznick said.

Ironically, one-thousand tons of sand were trucked into Heavenly late last month to build four two-foot deep courts at Heavenly. It would have been a lot simpler setting up a Lake Tahoe venue, but then again, some ticket sales would have been lost.

“Zephyr Cove Beach would be fine … they could hold a couple thousand people there. Of course, at the lake nowadays the beaches are washed out, but not at Zephyr Cove,” Selznick stressed.

Even tour star Mike Whitmarsh was confounded when told that he wouldn’t be playing near the lake.

“That’s a tough one. I don’t know much about the logistics of it, but hopefully they’ll make it look good. But I think all of the players would prefer it on the beach,” Whitmarsh said.

Even during the drought years of the late 1980 and early 1990s, there might not have been enough room for the new-and-improved AVP.

“There’s more going on than just beach volleyball. We have a full- entertainment facility,” Solomon said. “We come in with a whole mall area. There are off-court activities, booths with displays and sponsors, outdoor cafes and music. It’s not just a matter of having space for one court.”

Either way, Tahoe beach volleyball lovers better make an extra cash withdrawal for the weekend.

“There’s not a lot of competition for us (this weekend) in Tahoe compared to a major metropolitan area where you’re up against a number of other activities. Hopefully we can make an impact there.”

Their ticket prices certainly will!


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