ST. PETERSBURG — Two thousand tons of sand have been trucked onto downtown’s Spa Beach in preparation for the Association of Volleyball Professionals tournament starting today.
Organizers say the event will bring thousands of spectators downtown, and they’re hoping for better weather this time around. Last year was the tournament’s inaugural stop in St. Petersburg, but heavy storms caused the event’s cancellation part way through. And an outdoor news conference in June to announce the event in scenic Northshore Park was forced inside by heavy rains and gale-force winds from Tropical Storm Andrea.
Organizers hope the event goes more smoothly this time.
“For me, personally, I have unfinished business,” said Donald Sun, owner of the AVP. “I need to make sure the fans and city alike get to see it from start to finish.”
The event will bring two 2012 and 2016 Olympians to town, Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross. Sun said storms aside, St. Petersburg is an ideal setting for such an event.
“What brings us back is, despite what happened last year with the inclement weather that had us not finish the finals here, is the community support,” he said. “This is a good fit. It’s vibrant. It’s the demographics that make it a good fit.”
The tour will also visit Milwaukee; Salt Lake City; Manhattan Beach, California; Cincinnati; Atlantic City, New Jersey; and Huntington Beach, California.
A qualifying round for local contenders was held Thursday on Clearwater Beach. The Spa Beach games are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
Traffic is likely to be heavy in areas near Spa Beach, which is just north of the St. Petersburg Pier.
Forecasters say thunderstorms are likely each day of the tournament, but Sun said he’s optimistic.
“I’m still praying to the sun gods now,” Sun said.