Ryan McDonald

Hermosa set to host AVP again, but busy July creates concern

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Manhattan Beach native Alix Klineman celebrates at the Hermosa Open AVP Tournament. The tournament is set to return to Hermosa next year amid concern over a crowded summer event calendar. Photo by Ray Vidal

by Ryan McDonald

Hermosa Beach is poised to welcome back the AVP Hermosa Open for July 2019, bringing top-flight volleyball talent and thousands of visitors to town next summer, but also reigniting concerns about the impact on coastal access of the town’s highly concentrated summer beach volleyball calendar.

On Tuesday, Hermosa’s Parks, Recreation and Community Resources Advisory Board unanimously approved a schedule of “Level III” special events, those expected to have the greatest impact on residents, for the coming summer. The schedule of Level III events, which includes the AVP as well as a variety of amateur tournaments, will require final approval from the City Council.

Tuesday’s vote comes after amid ongoing controversy and difficulty associated with scheduling the AVP and other summer volleyball tournaments. The summer of 2017 marked the AVP’s return to Hermosa after several years of absence, following the AVP’s previous owners declaring bankruptcy in 2010. But the scheduling of tournaments for that summer came directly to the City Council without first going through the commission, prompting complaints about transparency from amateur volleyball organizations. Then last year, when scheduling events for the summer of 2018, parks and rec commissioners confronted with an overly packed July voted not to hold the AVP. That decision was later overturned by the City Council, who cited the economic and branding impact of the tournament for the city.

Robert Rosenfeld, chair of the commission, said that although he enjoyed watching beach volleyball and appreciated the impact the tournaments had on the city’s economy, he had grown tired in recent years of the surge in demand for space on sand around the Hermosa Pier during the month of July, and wished that tournament organizers had paid more attention to concerns raised last year.

“I don’t want to see all access to the beach cut off except for volleyball for the entire month of July,” Rosenfeld said.

The AVP is scheduled to occupy portions of the north and south side of the Pier — although not both at the same time on any weekend day — from Friday, July 19 through Wednesday, July 31, with much of that time devoted to assembly and removal of stands and tournament infrastructure. Al Lau, vice president of new media and player relations for AVP, said that the dates, which mirror those the tournament held this year, were selected in order to fit into a variety of constraints, including athletes’ international schedules and media commitments. And, although the Hermosa Open is a historic volleyball event, it is the youngest under the tour’s new ownership and must fit in alongside other events, Lau said.

For their part, organizers of amateur tournaments said that school calendars for youth players, and the start of girl’s indoor volleyball in fall, limited them to a roughly three-week window in July to hold their championships. The tournaments bring thousands of kids and their families to town, many of whom stay in local hotels like the Beach House. They also provide the athletes with an important opportunity for exposure to college scouts.

USA Volleyball, the American Athletic Union and Beach Volleyball Clubs of America all sought to hold their youth championship events in Hermosa. As was the case last year, USAV’s Junior National Championships was the odd tournament out, with their request coming at the same time as AVP’s requested dates.

Mark Paaluhi, the beach events coordinator for USAV and a former AVP player, said that his tournament brought huge economic benefits to the city, but said he understood the difficulty the commissioners faced.

“It’s a good problem you guys have, you just have to figure out how to manage your resources. To have these tours that all want to be a part of Hermosa Beach is a pretty good thing,” Paaluhi said.

The commission recommended that staff and the council look into scheduling alternatives for the future, including trying to work with Manhattan Beach to switch dates with the Manhattan Open, which is tentatively set for mid-August 2019. In 2009, the Hermosa Open took place in August, while the Manhattan Open took place in July.

Rosenfeld also wondered if it might be possible for the amateur organizations to consolidate their tournaments, given that some athletes play in multiple competitions. But Jeff Smith, tournament director for BVCA, described this as impossible.

“That would be like Republicans and Democrats getting together and saying, ‘Let’s have one organization,’” Smith joked.

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