Annapolis businessman aims to build indoor volleyball complex near BWI

October 09, 1994|By Shirley Leung | Shirley Leung,Sun Staff Writer

An Annapolis entrepreneur says he has lined up 160 investors in a project to build what he touts as Maryland's largest indoor volleyball center at a site near Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

William W. Wolfe, president of Volleyball America, says he has an agreement to purchase 6 acres for $850,000, contingent on his ability to obtain financing for the overall project.

He is working with Nova Enterprises Inc., general contractors in Millersville, on the design for a 90,000-square-foot complex that would include 10 volleyball courts, a restaurant, day care center and other amenities.

Mr. Wolfe says he could break ground for the $6 million project as early as January.

"I don't have any doubt in the world that this won't work," says Mr. Wolfe, 47. "The premise of a business is to find a niche and fill it. There is a need for an indoor volleyball court."

But some who are in the business say they are skeptical.

David Ludington, executive director of the Rockville-based Midlantic Volleyball, warns that the Anne Arundel County location may not attract enough players to be profitable.

"We would love to see Bill Wolfe's facility fly. But in reality you've got to look at the location and competition," Mr. Ludington says.

"You need to look at population and the facility it serves. If he sticks strictly to volleyball, it'll be tough. I'd go to a multisport facility."

Volleyball House, which opened in Columbia in 1990 with four volleyball courts, has expanded to include one soccer field and two more volleyball courts. Volleyball House President Dennis Kemp says that about 10,000 people a year use his courts, but his profits are only "marginally comfortable."

"Definitely another organization would create problems," Mr. Kemp says. "If we get into a pricing war, then we would probably both be detrimentally affected."

He says it is difficult to compete with volleyball programs subsidized by county recreation departments.

Anne Arundel County, for example, charges teams between $160 and $200 to play on its courts.

Mr. Kemp charges teams from $200 to $300 to play at his center.

Mr. Wolfe says those who want to use Volleyball America courts will pay membership dues or pay each time they use a court. He says he hopes to sponsor competitive leagues and tournaments on the weekends.

Mr. Wolfe, who started his own insurance and investment company in New Orleans in 1980, had first tried to build a volleyball complex there. But that deal fell through in 1991 when the money he planned to invest in the venture was lost in a scandal involving stockbrokers who took the money and ran, he says. After that, he returned to his hometown of Annapolis where he became an independent business consultant.

The project is sure to generate more revenue for Anne Arundel County, says Rosemary Duggins, spokeswoman for the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation. Mr. Wolfe plans to hire 60 employees. His tournaments should bring more people to the county, she says.

No one is sure, however, how many avid indoor volleyball players are in the county.

More than 1,000 adults are registered to play indoor volleyball in Annapolis and Anne Arundel recreation programs. Thirteen of the county's 15 high schools offer volleyball as a sport. Anne Arundel Community College fields a nationally ranked junior college women's team.

But the lack of a multi-court facility has limited the development of club teams in the county. Residents who want to play competitive volleyball must drive to Columbia or to courts in Montgomery County or Northern Virginia.

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