Men's Olympic Volleyball Team to Move to O.C.

Times Staff Writer

The U.S. Men's Volleyball Team has agreed to move its headquarters from Colorado Springs to Anaheim, according to city officials.

The six-year deal, which would run through the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and the 2012 games in London, is expected to be approved by the Anaheim City Council at tonight's meeting.

Beginning in May, the 25-man team would train at the 110,000-square-foot American Sports Centers on Anaheim Boulevard, which can accommodate 22 courts. Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle helped make the deal 10 days ago in Colorado Springs, Colo.

While the city awaits word on whether it will be awarded an NFL franchise, Anaheim officials have begun pursuing amateur sports, such as volleyball and half-marathons, and minor league sports, such as the National Basketball Development League. They call their amateur sports venture their new tourist initiative.

"We think it helps drive revenue in our hotels and restaurants and provides additional sports and entertainment to the city," said city spokesman John Nicoletti.

Oceanside, the Home Depot Center in Carson and the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista were also in contention for the team, but men's Coach Hugh McCutcheon said Anaheim offered the best financial package and the best location.

"Anaheim is so centrally located ... and it allows us to be a visible part of a thriving youth volleyball community," McCutcheon said. "In the long term, being here gives us a better chance to get a better look at a lot more players. We can see players develop, and we can take a more active role in developing the talent."

Nicoletti said the city had already secured $200,000 in annual sponsorships from hotels, restaurants and car dealers and an additional $100,000 in rent from the American Sports Centers. He said the city would need to raise an additional $250,000 annually to help pay for housing, food and training. If it can't secure sponsorships for the remainder, the city would have to make up the difference, he said.

The team tested a move to Anaheim by training at the American Sports Centers for two weeks in July. Less than a month after leaving Anaheim, the fifth-ranked Americans upset Brazil, the world's No. 1-ranked men's team, in the America's Cup. McCutcheon said he liked the facility and the fact that Southern California is much lower in elevation than Colorado Springs, where the team has trained since 1997.

"The altitude issue is really significant," he said. "All the major events, including the Olympics, will be played at sea level. Training at such a high altitude puts us at a disadvantage because the ball reacts so differently up there." He said, for example, that serves that are in bounds in Colorado are often out of bounds at sea level.

In addition to giving the team free court space and the use of a weight room for six years, American Sports Centers officials have agreed to spend $50,000 to build office space. Norm Nowell, the building's president, believes the investment will pay off.

"Volleyball is our biggest user," he said. "So any growth in volleyball will have a positive impact on us."

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