Baltimore serves up bid for beach volleyball trials Announcement on site could come this week

February 07, 1996|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

The 1996 Olympic Games may be six months off and 800 miles away, but Baltimore still may get a chance to play a small role in the centennial Olympic celebration.

Baltimore has submitted a bid for the first U.S. Olympic beach volleyball trials -- scheduled for June 8-9 -- and appears to be a front-runner to play host to either the men's or women's event.

The decision will be announced, perhaps by week's end, by International Marketing Group, the national sports marketing giant that represents the Association of Volleyball Professionals, the governing body of professional beach volleyball.

"Baltimore is one of the finalists. . . . Baltimore is in very good shape," said Steve Lindecke, who is coordinating the bidding process for IMG.

"IMG has managed the bid process, but the ultimate decision will be made by the governing body of the sport."

It is a complicated process that also will include input from NBC and main sponsor Anheuser-Busch, but Lindecke said yesterday he hopes to bring everyone together sometime this week.

"We're very excited that we may have the opportunity to be part of it," said Barbara Bozzuto, president of the Bozzuto/Lowenstein Marketing Group and the nonprofit Maryland Sports Corporation, which put together the Baltimore bid. "We're keeping our fingers crossed."

If the Baltimore bid is accepted, the trials would be held at a site in the Inner Harbor, which has played host to two successful beach volleyball events. Five other cities have entered bids, but Bozzuto says that Baltimore has made a very strong case for itself.

"We've shown that we have the ability to put on an event like this," she said. "We have run beach volleyball events in the Harbor View area and they went beautifully. It's a great site."

Should the local bid fail, it won't be for lack of effort on the part of Bozzuto and partner Lance Lowenstein, who have spent the past year carrying the Olympic torch for Baltimore and the past several weeks working hard to close the deal.

"They've been fantastic to work with," Lindecke said. "We've been in touch almost daily for the past three weeks."

Of course, beach volleyball is most popular on the West Coast, which would appear to argue for one of the more traditional California beach sites, but the success of Saturday's pro beach volleyball event at George Mason University's Patriot Center (6,069 tickets sold) illustrated that the sport has a solid following in the Baltimore/Washington area.

"That was a concern of ours -- that it would automatically go to the West Coast," Bozzuto said. "But Baltimore-Washington is the fourth-largest market in the country. I think they are most concerned with going where the fans are."

Lindecke indicated that the final decision may be based in large part on economic considerations, since Baltimore already has shown that it can create an appropriate environment for the competition.

"There are a lot of considerations," he said. "Humidity vs. dry air, time of year, weather, the influence of all the parties involved . . . and business. The sites that bid all understand that. It's far from being an Art Modell kind of thing. No one's being held for ransom, but the financial [package] is important."

The bidding process is not new to the Maryland Sports Corporation, which put together the successful bid to host the 1992 Olympic gymnastics trials. Bozzuto and Lowenstein also came close to landing the '96 short-course cycling trials last year, but the Carroll County Commissioners denied funding for the event last May and the bid had to be withdrawn.

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