Beach volleyball trials dig in, come up hit Nonprofit corporation expects to break even

Olympics

June 10, 1996|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

It was a huge undertaking, especially under the circumstances. The U.S. Olympic beach volleyball trials were awarded to Baltimore barely three months before the event, and still the Maryland Sports Corporation put up a stadium and put on a show.

Maybe attendance could have been a little better, but the five-day beach festival/pre-Olympic tournament at HarborView apparently will break even, which would make it a big success for the nonprofit Maryland Sports Corporation.

"All in all, I think we're going to be right where we thought we'd be," said MSC president Barbara Bozzuto. "It will be close to the bone, but we're going to be able to pay our bills, and that's really what we're looking to do."

That would be no small feat. The MSC had to pay a six-figure site fee to bring the event to Baltimore, build and maintain a 4,500-seat beach volleyball stadium, sell tickets, arrange sponsorships, coordinate security and supervise the day-to-day operation of the site.

Bozzuto estimated that MSC spent $110,000 to create and maintain the site, which will be paid out of sponsorship revenue and gate receipts. In a best-case scenario, the event would generate some funds to seed future events, but the real profit comes in the form of the civic benefits of a highly publicized and nationally televised event.

It didn't go off without a glitch here and there, but the event ran smoothly and the organizers received praise from the governing bodies of amateur volleyball and the professional tours.

"I think the setup was terrific," said John Carroll, executive director of USA Volleyball. "I think the support of the Baltimore community and the effort of all the volunteers was great. There are always going to be glitches. This was the first event of its kind, so little things are going to pop up, but I hope people here appreciated how the event was handled and how hard these people worked to put it on."

They were not able to pack the house any of the five days. The event drew an estimated total of 7,000 to 8,000 fans, leaving room to wonder if the price of tickets kept the curious from joining the core beach volleyball crowd.

"I don't know what the market is here," said Rosie Crews of USA Volleyball. "Obviously, they [prices] were more than a regular tour event. We allowed the local organizers to price it, because they have the best knowledge of the area.

"I think it was worth the value. These are the best beach volleyball players in the world."

Still, there was room to wonder if the $80 courtside seats might have put off potential ticket-buyers, even though other tickets were available for $15 and $30.

"We were very comfortable with ticket prices," Bozzuto said. "We consulted with IMG [International Marketing Group] and USA Volleyball. They both had the right of approval."

Carroll wondered if the local organizers had taken full advantage of merchandising opportunities that might have made the week more profitable for MSC. There were, for example, no event T-shirts or programs for sale for a first-of-its-kind event that was a natural for that kind of concession.

"Other trials have had huge sales of T-shirts," Carroll said. "This is a first-time event, so it's more than a T-shirt. It's a keepsake. It's the kind of thing that people will be trading in 10 years. Still, I think this should be a proud moment for these people."

There were few complaints from the players about the site, which featured three competition courts and one practice court on the south side of the Inner Harbor. CE Sports constructed the temporary complex, and it was consistent with the outdoor sites on the men's and women's tours.

The athletes had one major complaint about the trials, and it had nothing to do with the local organizing effort. They took every opportunity to blast the international federation for the political power play that allowed one men's team and one women's team to bypass the trials and win an Olympic berth based on point rankings on the international tour.

Not a day passed that the free pass given to the men's team of Sinjin Smith and Carl Henkel and the women's team of Nancy Reno and Holly McPeak did not become an issue at the trials.

"It was consistent because the format is different every week," said Gail Castro, who earned an Olympic berth with teammate Deb Richardson. "I expected the whole format to change. You wonder if you're going to get here and find yourself playing to seven [points]. They really haven't figured out how to do this. It's the first-ever trials. They had never done it before, so you just had to go with it."

Countdown

Days until opening ceremonies: 39.

Cycling: The Olympic roster for the U.S. cycling team was completed yesterday. The U.S. national team had hoped to send six of its eight endurance track team cyclists to Atlanta for a shot at the gold in the four-man team pursuit. But only four of them get to go because two Team Shaklee racers beat favored national team members in the individual pursuit and the points race at the Olympic trials at Trexlertown, Pa. The four who will go to Atlanta are: Dirk Copeland, San Diego; Mariano Friedick, Colorado Springs, Colo.; Adam Laurent, Shell Beach, Calif.; and Mike McCarthy, New York.

Wrestling: The U.S. team was determined in wrestle-offs Saturday at Spokane, Wash. Making the team were Rob Eiter at 105.5 pounds, Lou Rosselli at 114.5, Kendall Cross at 125.5, Tom Brands at 136.5, Townsend Saunders at 149.5, Kenny Monday at 163, Les Gutches at 180.5, Melvin Douglas at 198, Kurt Angle at 220 and Bruce Baumgartner at 286.

Pub Date: 6/10/96

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