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Phoenix volleyball festival brings crowds, money

PHOENIX – More than 6,000 teenage athletes have converged on Phoenix for
the annual Volleyball Festival.

The Arizona Republic reports girls ages 12 to 18 from
550 teams have been competing in the national tournament, which started Tuesday.

The event is in its fourth year in Phoenix, after relocating from Reno in 2009.

Texas-based Festival Sports, which has run the tournament for the past 28
years, says organizers chose Phoenix for the available sports facilities and
other amenities. Bryan Kelley, Festival Sports president, said there are more
places such as Court One in Tempe, an indoor facility which opened in 2010.
Kelley said before, teenage players had nowhere to practice during the summer
once schools closed.

The number of facilities shows Arizona’s club-volleyball scene has grown in the
last few years, Kelley said. In 2009, only 10 to 15 Arizona-based teams played
in the festival. This year, more than 160 teams from the Grand Canyon state are
taking part.

“You see a lot of these organizations willing to invest in their kids and then
they can take their clubs from two teams, to four teams, to eight teams, to 20
teams,” Kelley said.

This year’s event includes an indoor sand court, a growing trend in Arizona and
nationwide. The NCAA recently approved sand volleyball as an official collegiate
sport. The Arizona Interscholastic Association gave the green-light to a girl’s
sand-volleyball pilot program at a Phoenix high school.

Harold Cranswick, commissioner for the Arizona Region of USA Volleyball, said
teams in Arizona have proven to be worthy competitors, coming in first or second
place at national tournaments in recent years.

“Our players have shown you don’t have to grow up on the beach to be a good
sand player,” Cranswick said.

Phoenix officials say they expect the festival and its 15,000 attendees to
generate $23 million in spending this week.

“It’s certainly an economic engine in downtown for summer,” said Douglas
MacKenzie, a spokesman for the Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitor’s Bureau.

The volleyball festival runs through Sunday.

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Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com