Officials Dispel Rumors, Confirm Tourney Still On

OCEAN CITY – After a bit of speculation that the highly anticipated pro volleyball event may not come to town, local officials were reassured that the Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) is coming, promotional dollars or not.

Ocean City was added to the list of stops for the 2009 AVP Crocs Tour last month after the association withdrew from a scheduled New Jersey event, opening the door for Ocean City to become not only one of this year’s tour stops, but also an annual stop.

“They’ve got a Pittsburgh and a South Carolina event on either side of the Ocean City event,” said event organizer Brett Wolf, “so going forward, they are looking to make a longer term commitment (with Ocean City) and they really want to stay on the east coast.

Wolf, who gave an update to town officials and members of the business community at last week’s Tourism Commission meeting, said that another reason that Ocean City is so desirable to the AVP is that it is only one of four locations in the country on the tour schedule boasting a natural beach.

“The players really like to play on natural beaches, and they don’t like playing in a place like Louisville which is essentially a big parking lot with 30 tons of sand,” said Wolfe. “Plus the COO [chief operating officer] of the AVP (Jason Hodell) has played in tournaments in Ocean City in the past and loves the town.”

Speculation and perhaps lingering doubt about the event arose because in most circumstances, promoters are required to come to the table with the AVP with a required sponsorship fee of $150,000-160,000, according to Wolfe, who conceded that the event’s promoter, Baltimore-based Corrigan Sports nor the town of Ocean City “have the money for that at this time.”

“That price is usually a guideline to buy title sponsorship for the event,” said Corrigan Sports VP Don Abramson. “This is a market that the AVP has wanted to come to for some time, and because of that, they’ve waived the initial fees.”

Abramson said that usually the host city will partner with the AVP for a fee of $25,000 and in return, the municipality will receive 30-second commercial spots on the broadcast network for the event. Town officials have told Abramson that they will not be able to put any money into the event and will be happy with the “in show content” and the “b-roll footage” during the broadcast.

The event is slated to take place on the beach between Dorchester and Somerset streets on June 18-21 and is projected to draw upwards of 5,000 spectators and well over $1 million in economic impact to the town of Ocean City.

Wolf told the Tourism Commission that the AVP will be in town for the week prior to the event setting up and getting ready for the tournament, boosting the local hotel industry as over 900 rooms will be booked by the staff of the AVP alone.

New Jersey’s loss seems to be Ocean City’s gain in this case, according to Wolf, who touched on some reasons why the AVP was anxious to change venues.

“Though it was a very popular event (in New Jersey), the venue wasn’t very good,” said Wolf. “People had to pay just to get on the beach. There was little to no parking, and the event was spread out over 12 blocks.”

Wolf said that local sponsors are being sought out for the event, and VIP skyboxes and box seats will be available for a price (skyboxes upwards of $15,000) and four “beach boxes” (in the $3,500 range).

The price of admission to the public, though not set in stone, according to Wolf, will be much more reasonable.

“There are two options that they are considering,” said Wolf. “One is to fence in the entire event, charge $10 general admission and $21 for courtside seats, and the other is to allow some free viewing of the outer courts and an admission fee to the interior.”

Whatever the fee ends up as, Wolf said that it would be an all-day pass, so “once you are in, you are in for the day.”

Wolf has encouraged the AVP to allow some free viewing of the tournament to generate excitement and turnout to the event.

The other big intangible is the national press coverage that this event will bring to the town of Ocean City. ESPN 2 will air one of the finals and Fox Sports Net will run the other. In addition, MASN, which is the cable provider that runs area metropolitan sports, will be running re-airs of the tournament during rainouts throughout the summer.

Wolf said there would probably be 20 re-airs of the tournament, and that the package comes with b-roll footage and “in-show content” about the town. For instance, when coming in and out of commercials, the camera will show shots of Ocean City and announcers will be talking about the town throughout the broadcast, according to Wolf.

Beer sales may be added for the event, similar to sales during Springfest and Sunfest, and local businesses will be called upon to invest in the event via advertising.

Wolf said that the pro players tend to draw an older crowd, which might indicate a larger bang for the local advertisers buck.

“The demographic is middle aged, more like 30-55, and that is good, because that demographic tends to spend more money than a kid that might be here on senior week,” he said.