City & Gulf Shores Tourism to split $370K cost of producing NCAA Volleyball
ESPN will provide coverage during entire tourney (May 4-6) at Gulf Shores Public Beach
By John Mullen
When Pleasure Island officials first began pursuing college-level sand volleyball tournaments to Gulf Place they had no idea it would balloon to become the premier event it is today.
“This is an amazing chain of events that have ended up with us being in the position to have a major NCAA national championship here for a long period of time,” Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft said. “It is a signature event for showing off who we are and what we do.”
When eight women’s teams come to town to decide the NCAA Sand Volleyball National Championship May 4-6, it will the third consecutive year it will be decided on Gulf Shores’ beaches. And, this year marks the first of five more years the tournament is contracted to take place on those same sugar-white sands.
Along with that sponsorship comes the price tag of producing the event at about $370,000 per year. Director of Recreation and Cultural Affairs Grant Brown said the cost will be equally shared by the city and Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism.
At a recent council meeting, the tourism board’s President and CEO, Herb Malone, announced this year’s championship will get a significant upgrade in TV coverage.
“The preliminary events will be on ESPN2, which everybody carries, and the final event will be on the mother station of ESPN,” Malone said. “This is a tremendous, tremendous expansion of the audience we’ll be reaching. It’s a lot of money but it’s well worth the money.”
Brown said ESPN has already been on site and left town excited about the prospects of the Gulf front venue.
“They came in and did a site visit about three months ago and the electricity and energy in the room as they were looking at this site was incredible,” Brown said. “So we’re going to get great, quality television out of this from ESPN, the mothership if you will, of sporting events. If you’re looking for a sporting event you’re not going to TBS or TRUTV, you’re going to go to ESPN.”
Previous events were broadcast on those cable networks which aren’t available on all cable or satellite packages.
ESPN plans to have multiple elevated camera stands throughout the site covering the action, Brown said, as well as video boards to help fans keep up with action from all the courts. This year more amenities will be added for the spectators on the five beachfront courts.
“One of the greatest needs we have related to the actual execution of this is more seating for people,” Brown said. “Not just seating or bleacher seating. Bleacher seating is not ideal. We spent additional dollars to add elevated platforms and put seats around each of these courts. All five courts are required to have a certain amount of seating.”
There will also be some on-beach parking areas with an assist from the Hangout Music Fest, Brown said.
“At the west end of the property the Hangout Music Festival event staff will start placing their mats, the large plastic mats that create the roads for their trucks and trailers and stages,” Brown said. “They will put their matting down on the beach and they will staff a parking crew. People with the volleyball national championships and participants in the youth volleyball program will park on the beach on these mats.”
This year’s event will be the first chance for the city to show off improvements made in phase two of the Gulf Place Revitalization Project.
“There’s been an awful lot of work being done at Gulf Place and very soon we’re going to be able to open that up,” Brown said. “Unfortunately, very quickly after we open we’re going to have to shut it down for a little while with the national volleyball championships.”
Councilman Joe Garris said for the city’s beaches to host the premier women’s event for what is a West Coast sport is a big win for Gulf Shores.
“For us to pull them teams from California into a little ol’ town in Alabama, that’s pretty amazing I think,” Garris said.
The council also discussed:
– Applying for a Coastal Planning Grant for $30,000 from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to develop a master stormwater master plan for the walking district. The city is trying to create a mixed-use walking district along the streets just north of beach highway. To make it work the city must develop a stormwater plan to cover the entire area instead of having on-site detention ponds. The city applied for a similar grant with a different organization earlier this year but was turned down.
– Heard an annexation request from Leonard Kaiser for 47 acres north of Martyn Woods I to be called Martyn Woods three. Most of the land is wetland and he is asking for a variance to plot some of the wetland with the six lots where homes will be built.
– Agreed to spend almost $100,000 on LED signs for the new beach road improvements area and the recently completed work on the intersection of Alabama 59 and County Road 6.
– Bought a can crusher/blower for the Public Works Department’s recycling program for more than $21,000 to help automate the handling of the 1.4 million cans the program collects each year.
– OK’d transfer of a liquor license from Bywater Bistro to Delta Blues Bar. The business is under the Alabama 59 bridge on the south bank of the Intracoastal Waterway.
– Awarded an elevator inspection contract to KONE, Inc. in an amount not exceed $17,000 annually.
– Approved public assembly permits for the Good Life Ride from Tacky Jacks on May 12, the Sounds of Summer concert series at Pelican Place starting on Friday, May 25 and then every Saturday from June 8 through Aug. 11 and approved a car show for Pelican Place for April 26.
– Agreed to two exchange of services contracts with the South Baldwin Community Theater for $7,000 and with the Gulf Coast Arts Alliance for $1,000.