The outdoor beach volleyball season may be over as swimsuits give way to jeans and hoodies along the Oceanfront, but local players no longer have to wait until next spring to hit the sand.
Virginia Beach’s Tidewater Volleyball Association opened what it says are the state’s first indoor sand courts in late September and began league play there on Oct. 12. Another indoor sand facility also opened recently in Chesapeake and has begun league play there as well.
The Virginia Beach facility, located two buildings down from the Tidewater Volleyball Association’s hard courts gym at 2644 Dean Dr., features four regulation-size sand volleyball courts and a snack and drink bar. Stephen McDaniel, the association’s beach programs director, said the facility is still a work in progress, and about a month away from reaching 90 percent of its originally planned layout.
The Tidewater Volleyball Association, which offers three indoor leagues year-round and a beach league in the summer, capitalized on the opportunity to add an indoor sand league as the popularity of beach volleyball grows locally and nationally.
“The area itself has become a hub for beach volleyball, naturally,” McDaniel said. “We saw an opportunity to get our players year-round training in order to specify certain skills necessary for the beach that you can’t do during regular indoor season. It ups the level of play for all of our players for when summer comes around.”
The volleyball association discussed the idea of an indoor sand facility in summer 2014. When Bounceeez closed in June, it rented the building and began renovations in August.
The club bought 700 tons of sand from North Carolina that arrived in 56 truck loads, according to McDaniel. A Bobcat was used to spread the sand 12 inches deep for each court and the outskirts. The fine sand is raked each day and sprayed with water every two days to keep it packed. To best replicate the beach, the facility’s sand is kept gritty and heavier, which also helps prevent the sand from flying, McDaniel said.
The facility’s bar serves snacks and sports drinks, as well as beer. In addition to a small open space by the entrance with tables and chairs, the club plans to add bleachers.
The association’s indoor sand leagues currently have 75 teams — doubles and fours — with male, female and coed teams. Players from all over South Hampton Roads participate. League play runs from Monday through Friday, while tournaments are held on Saturdays and Sundays.
TVA also offers different styles of tournaments, including one for men under 6-feet tall, and “grab bag,” a doubles tournament featuring teams that are formed by picking a partner’s name out of a hat. The indoor lights allow the club to hold a “Twilight” tournament from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. some Saturdays.
The ability to continue beach play through the off-season was a “dream come true” for Bryan Gilmore, a Beach resident who plays doubles in the Association of Volleyball Professional’s domestic professional tours.
“To have the ability to practice all winter is just huge,” Gilmore said. “Normally after September your’re forced to wait until late March for high 50s (degrees) to get back on the sand. It would normally take a solid month to get back into beach shape. Now I don’t ever have to lose my beach touch.”
David Jones, a Beach resident who’s played the sport for 22 years and participates in AVP tournaments throughout the East Coast, joked that players won’t have to “suffer from seasonal depression anymore.” He said he has friends from Philadelphia who visit him to play in the new indoor facility.
“Now that we have this, I think this is going to change the game completely,” Jones said.
“I can see myself hanging out here in the off-season during a wintertime more than going to a bar,” Jones added. “I’d rather sit here and watch a game.”
McDaniel says the Tidewater Volleyball Association intends to use the facility for more than volleyball. Plans are in the works for hosting sand soccer, dodge ball, CrossFit training programs and more. The association also hopes to host “beach movie nights” for children, with a film shown on a wall and chairs scattered in the sand.
Since the NCAA sanctioned beach volleyball as a women’s sport this past summer, the association’s objective to supply a year-round training facility for local beach volleyball players is in full effect.
“The idea of playing beach volleyball in November is now starting to sink in for our beach players,” McDaniel said. “They realize how rare it is. They’re trying to get in there as much as possible.”