Lake County looks to become major beach volleyball destination

Lake County could become one of the largest sites for beach volleyball tournaments in the Southeast if county commissioners approve a plan on April 8 to build a sand volleyball complex. The 20-court complex would be built on top of what is currently a retention pond at the Hickory Point Recreational Facility in Tavares.

If the plan is approved, the county would enter into a privatization partnership with the Florida Region of USA Volleyball to hold regional and national volleyball events at the facility.

The nonprofit organization with more than 12,500 members is one of 40 regional volleyball associations under the umbrella of USA Volleyball, which oversees outdoor and indoor volleyball.

County Commissioner Welton Cadwell, who has helped facilitate the partnership, said the complex would bring tourists and athletes to the county for sporting events.

“This will be the largest contiguous beach volleyball site in the Southeast,” Cadwell said. “This will be the premier site in the Southeastern United States for beach volleyball.”

Adam Sumner, manager of the county’s economic development and tourism department, said tournaments and events at the complex could mean 1,600 hotel rooms occupied in the first year.

The complex is expected to cost $400,000, which would be funded through the county’s tourist bed tax.

In a recent independent economic impact study, the Central Florida Sports Commission reported the complex is expected to bring in $5.5 million to the county over a five-year period, according to Steve Bishop, executive director and president of the Florida Region of USA Volleyball.

The Lake County Water Authority Board of Trustees, in a 5-1 vote with Peggy Cox dissenting, gave approval last week to enter into an agreement to lease the land to the county.

Cox said she objected to the complex because it would limit the number of events and rentals the authority could book.

With all the events occurring at the facility, Cox said she was also concerned about conflicts over parking.

The complex would enable the organization to host tournaments, leagues, camps and clinics year round, Bishop said.

“There has been a lot of hard work behind the scenes to make this happen,” said County Commission Chairman Jimmy Conner.

Bishop said he has spoken with the Florida High School Athletic Association about helping them introduce high school sand volleyball to the county.

The idea for a volleyball complex has been in works for the last 10 years, Bishop said

He explained that the nets would be put in place by Fourth of July weekend and would be removable. As a result, he said the area could be used for sand soccer, cross training and other activities.

In 2013, the Leesburg City Commission discussed preliminary plans to put a similar volleyball complex at Venetian Gardens’ Ski Beach, but did not move forward because of residents’ complaints.

“A handful of residents who live close to the park (where the complex would be) were afraid it would take away the view of the lake and they did not want the traffic and the noise,” said City Commissioner Jay Hurley, who initiated the idea. “They put up a big struggle.”

Hurley said he is disappointed the plan did not come to fruition.

“It was a win-win all the way around,” he said, explaining he was sad the city lost out on it. “It is a good thing for the county.”

Volleyball is the fastest growing emerging sport in the NCAA and was the fifth most popular Olympic sport in 2012, according to information from the Florida Region of USA Volleyball.

Comments are closed.