Easy Reader Staff

Manhattan Beach mayor says too late to cancel Six-Man Volleyball Tournament

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Though the city cracked down on alcohol at last summer’s Six-Man Volleyball Tournament, one team still brought oversized red cups to the event. Photo by Olivia Keston

Though fears and rumors of the cancellation of this summer’s Charles Saikley Six-Man Volleyball Tournament have recently resurfaced, it may be too late for the city to back out of holding this year’s event.

A decrease in the number of registered teams from 237 last year to 85 this year, as of Wednesday, has city officials grappling with how to cover a projected $102,000 shortfall from the $202,000 cost of the tournament —  scheduled on July 30 and 31 as part of the International Surf Festival (ISF) — if more teams don’t sign up by Friday.

The City Council on Tuesday will decide whether to cover the additional costs, scale back on the event’s size, or both, with the possibility of making the 54-year tradition a one-day event.

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“The revenue brought in from teams doesn’t match expenses,” Mayor Richard Montgomery said Tuesday. “We’ll look at the game plan next week, but I think it’s too late to cancel this year’s tournament. Next year we can decide whether to scale back or cancel with notice.”

Team fees were increased last year after former Manhattan Beach Police Chief Rod Uyeda expressed concern that ballooning, drunken, party crowds – reaching upward of 60,000 people in recent years – had the potential to incite a riot that could result in injuries and property damage. The council at that time implemented a slew of new measures, including its first strict alcohol ban, a limited number of team tents and coolers, and no amplified music or bullhorns. Entry fees were raised from $600 to $1,100 for unsponsored, open teams and from $1,000 to $2,500 for sponsored, open teams in order to offset an extra $93,000 for enhanced enforcement, which included staffing the entire police force and additional security for the Saturday portion of the tournament.

This year, the volleyball community, the city and tournament organizers are feeling the effects of the higher costs.

A recent post on a Manhattan Beach 6-Man Facebook page attempts to downplay the raised fees.

“…Costs are up, but what else is new?…The increased tourney fees cover the additional logistical hurdles needed to herd 100K people around safely,” the post reads.

But Lauren Farmer-Wilson isn’t buying it.

“Too expensive,” she commented on the post. “Sorry guys, shouldn’t have tried to capitalize so much on a good time. When everything else is more expensive, no one will pay fees like that. Gas or a volleyball tournament without refs? Hmmm.”

The city budgeted for $224,000 in expenses for this year’s tournament when it passed its $95 million operating budget earlier this month. In a city email, Councilmember Wayne Powell said that during the budget process, the council was assured by staff that the event would break even as team registrations increased.

When earlier this month registration fees, which make up the bulk of the tournament’s revenue, totaled only $80,900, Powell became concerned over the city covering the $151,000 difference. A combination of new team registrations, volunteer support and the ISF stepping in to cover some costs has since reduced the shortfall to $102,000.

“I don’t believe that the taxpayers should have to subsidize this event, which also has other negative impacts (security, littering, loitering, noise, parking, etc.), when we’ve eliminated other programs that are not self-sustaining,” Powell said in the email.

In an interview this week, he pointed to the recent freezing of eight staff positions, including two vacant police positions that were left unfilled, as competing concerns with tournament costs.

“If I look at that $151,000 shortfall, that would pay for those positions. So it’s a question of priorities,” Powell said.

He also feared that a recent county requirement that the city develop an emergency plan with the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department and local hospitals for the event could increase costs more.

Montgomery fears that even if the council cancelled the event this year, members of the public would hold their own tournament over which the city would have no control and from which it would receive no revenue.  He added that the council’s decision will largely hinge on MBPD Chief Eve Irvine’s presentation of her enforcement needs to council Tuesday.

“I don’t want to sacrifice public safety,” Montgomery said. “I want enough policies to enforce no alcohol on the beach and the protection of property around the city.”

Powell agreed it is likely too late to cancel this year’s tournament and that the city needs to either to get commercial sponsors or significantly scale back operations. He said he has received emails from residents complaining about the city subsidizing the event with tax dollars, as well as from upset volleyball players who don’t think they should have to pay to keep out the party crowd.

“I understand it’s not the fault of the players,” Powell said. “They say this isn’t what Charles Saikley would have wanted and I take exception to that. To him, it was always about the camaraderie of the sport, not partying.”

The Charles Saikley Six-Man Volleyball Tournament is scheduled to be held on Saturday July 30 and Sunday July 31 at 9 a.m. on the south side of Manhattan Beach Pier. Team entry fees are as follows: $1,100 for unsponsored, open teams and $2,500 for open teams sponsored by local businesses, both for up to 12 players with an additional $100 per player; $800 for unsponsored teams and $1,200 for sponsored teams in the master’s division, both for up to 20 players. Alcohol will not be allowed at the event. For more information or to register, visit www.surffestival.org or call 310- 802-5405.

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