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12/10/2004

Junior Olympic National volleyball tourney coming to Utah

December 10, 2004

The Deseret News Publishing Co.
Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)

BYLINE: Amy Donaldson Deseret Morning News

Watch out, Utah. An invasion is on the horizon. Only this time it's not crickets that will swarm to the Beehive State -- it's volleyball players.

The 2005 Junior Olympic National Volleyball Championships are returning to Utah next June after a three-year hiatus. It is the second-largest sporting event to ever be held in the state, with the largest being the 2002 Winter Olympics.

"It's a phenomenal event," said Kim Norman, executive director of Intermountain Volleyball Association, which will host the eight-day tournaments at the Salt Palace Convention Center. "It raises the profile of local volleyball and brings a lot of money to Utah businesses."

In 2001 and 2002, Salt Lake City hosted the championships, which was considered highly successful by both the local community and USA volleyball officials. The events grossed $33 million in those two years, and Norman said they expect an even greater economic impact because there will be more people involved in the 2005 championships.

"We had great success with the last two tournaments," Norman said. Utah teams finished second in 2001 and first in 2002 in the 18 and under division.

The tournaments feature the best club volleyball teams from around the world. Teams from Brazil to New Jersey will gather in Salt Lake to play for titles in each age division from 10 and under to 18 and under. The tournaments start on June 25 and run through July 2.

Norman said about 10,000 coaches, players and officials will attend the tournaments as 756 teams compete over those eight days. They also expect about 45,000 spectators and 250 college coaches. The teams eligible to participate in the championship tournaments must win regional qualifying tournaments.

"It's just a great thing to be able to host it," she said.

The only trouble IVA has run into in planning the event is finding enough sponsors within Utah pay for it.

"If we're going to continue to help the community, then they're going to have to be a little more generous with us," she said of the non-profit organization. The Eccles Foundation, the Utah Sports Foundation, and New Ways have all been supporters of the effort to bring the championships back to Utah.

"We have $200,000 in investment expenses that we have to cover," she said. "We have very little marketing and some other small sponsors, but we need more support. For the 10s of thousands of dollars that we're bringing to businesses, we need those businesses to support us."

She said they're continuing their fund-raising and sponsorship efforts. USA volleyball officials are traveling to Utah next week to announce Utah's selection as the site of the 2005 tournament. E-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com