Long Beach Open could be last stop for pro beach volleyball tour this year


Misty May-Treanor returned to her hometown of Long Beach with three straight wins Saturday, as she and partner Nicole Branaugh easily made the semifinals of the Long Beach Open.

But the victories were bittersweet, as Sunday’s play could be the last domestic competition of 2010.

In a conference call with players on Wednesday, the Assn. of Volleyball Professionals discussed its financial situation, outlined its investors’ timeline and raised the possibility that the Long Beach tournament could be the last in the U.S. this season.

“If this is the last stop, hey great, it’s where I live,” May-Treanor said. “That’s the way business is, that’s the way things operate. You have ups and downs. If they’re able to pull it off, then they’re able to pull it off.”

The current ownership group has funded the AVP tours since 2008, but new negotiations are underway, AVP Chief Executive Jason Hodell said. Unless a deal is closed, the last six weeks of the 2010 season are in jeopardy.

Hodell and AVP Commissioner Mike Dodd said they were “super optimistic” that a deal would be signed and the tour, which is scheduled to resume in San Francisco on Aug. 15, will continue uninterrupted.

However, players are preparing for the worst.

“I’m planning on it being the end,” May-Treanor said. “Business things take time. . . . Everybody’s relying on this, but everybody’s going to have a Plan B.”

Todd Rogers, who with partner Phil Dalhausser will play in the semifinals, said the dealings would affect teams differently. Rogers and Dalhausser are ranked No. 1 in the world and already play on the FIVB world tour. They would continue to do so, but many other teams do not have the ability to play internationally.

“We were just talking about 14, 15, 16 really good teams out there” at Long Beach, Rogers said. “Only seven of them can play in an FIVB tournament, and that’s predicated on points. So there’s no place for them to play. That’s a problem.”

With sponsorships hard to come by in difficult economic times, investors have provided nearly all of the funds for the AVP tour in recent years, Hodell said.

“All businesses right now, it’s hard, it’s a recession,” he said. “We’re just like any other business, and we’re raising money from our investors. It’s all fairly normal, the only thing about our business is that we’ve got a tour. So at a certain point, we have to bring capital in.”

Players were able to ask questions during the conference call. The quickly arranged meeting did not come as a shock, they said.

“I knew it was coming,” Rogers said. “They’d been talking to some of the players before about some of the issues that have been going on, and it wasn’t a surprise, I don’t think, to anyone.”

The call was organized to give players “an update and let them know the types of investors that are looking at us . . . and to reassure them,” Hodell said. “We just want to be honest, up front, and let them know that we’re very positive.”

Sean Rosenthal, whose fans planned to travel to Chicago for a friend’s bachelor party that coincides with the scheduled Aug. 27-29 AVP tournament, said the players are in a difficult position.

“We need to do everything we can to keep this tour afloat,” Rosenthal said. “It’s a great tour and it really should be a tour that’s flourishing. But we have no control of it. We just come out and do our jobs.”

Rosenthal and his partner, Jake Gibb, will be playing Sunday in the contenders’ bracket. Rachel Scott and Elaine Youngs were the other women’s team to make the semifinals, and Sean Scott and John Hyden will be playing in the men’s semifinals.