Resort Volleyball Tourney To Air On ESPN2

OCEAN CITY – The resort had a great opportunity fall in its proverbial lap this week, one that potentially could bring upwards of 5,000 people and priceless national exposure for the town.

The Ocean City Open will be a four-day showcase of the Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) on the beach between Dorchester and Somerset streets on June 18-21 and will be broadcast on ESPN2 during the men’s and women’s finals, giving Ocean City the equivalent of a “90 minute infomercial”, said tour director Don Abramson, who along with Brett Wolfe brought the idea to City Hall Tuesday night.

“This is the type of event that has the players that you saw at the Olympics in China, and the type of event that is covered with live television from ESPN,” said Special Events Director John Sullivan. “They come in six tractor trailer trucks, and it takes very little incoming support to make this happen.”

According to Sullivan, the AVP tour will need to shut down Somerset and Dorchester streets for a period of time to load in all the equipment and two television trucks will be stationed somewhere near those two streets to broadcast the event.

Abramson said that normally these events draw in about 5,000 people, but the AVP Chief Operating Officer Jason Hodell is hopeful that he will draw in more people that the projected number.

“The men’s gold medallist winner who will play in the event played in one of my beach volleyball tournaments in Ocean City years ago, and Hodell has played here in the past, and they just rave about Ocean City,” said Abramson.

The best part for Ocean City might lie in the fact that the national exposure gained from hosting such an event will cost the town virtually nothing.

Wildwood, N.J. was slated to host the event, but decided to cancel, thus opening the door for the Ocean City to swoop in on this year’s event. According to Abramson, if all goes well, Ocean City could be a regular tour stop for the AVP.

“What I’ve negotiated with the AVP is ‘in show’ content,” said Abramson. “So coming in and out of commercials, they will show people fishing or walking on the Boardwalk, and using the skate bowl and enjoying the beaches, so we will essentially have a 90-minute infomercial.”

Abramson also negotiated that the on-air talent will essentially plug the town during their on-camera banter and speak about how great the town is and all the amenities that Ocean City has to offer.

In addition to the national media coverage, the impact on the local economy is alleged to be substantial.

A typical AVP event generates almost $2 million in direct local impact, and more than 900 hotel rooms will be needed just to accommodate the players and those who work on the tour according to Abramson.

City Council members had no reason to be displeased with such an event and convincingly gave their unanimous blessing for Abramson and Wolfe to move forward and work out the specifics with the AVP.

“It’s hard to say no to that,” said Councilman Jim Hall. “This is the type of event that we like brought to us. You aren’t asking us for any money, and it’s in early June, so my hat goes off to you guys.”

What seemed to be the only hitch in the golden opportunity was the fact that there was another event scheduled for the same area of the beach on that particular weekend, according to Sullivan.

The organizers of Beachfest 2009, an action sports weekend showcasing pro surfing, skateboarding and various other outdoor events, will now be held at the Convention Center, the skatebowl park and in front of Castle in the Sand, after both parties agreed to work together and cross-promote the two events.

The combination of Beachfest, with the national exposure brought on by the AVP tour, mixed with the late June timing, could be a beneficial advertising cocktail of sorts in respects to drawing visitors to the town.

“The first two airings of the show will be great timing for Ocean City as it is actually just before the busy season starts,” said Abramson, “and in addition to the telecast, 200-300 television spots will air in the Mid-Atlantic states three weeks prior to the event, and we will also take advantage of radio and print ads within a four hour drive of Ocean City.”

Men’s beach bolleyball gold medallists Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers will play in the event as aforementioned, and the women’s gold medallist team was slated to compete, but may only appear to sign autographs, as Kristy Walsh is due to give birth on that weekend, and the other Misty May-Treanor tore her Achilles tendon on “Dancing with the Stars.”

The AVP has national sponsors for the event but Abramson said that he would be seeking out local and regional sponsors as well.

It should also be noted that the finals for the men’s and women’s beach volleyball event in Beijing were seen in 47.2 million American households during NBC’s primetime coverage.