LAKE COUNTY, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - Volleyball players from 17 different countries are in Lake County this weekend for the city's first ever International Volleyball Tournament. Barbados, Antigua, Canada, Puerto Rico are just four of the 12 countries represented at the tournament which is being held at Hickory Point in Tavares. Teams have traveled from North, Central, and South America.
"We said, 'Let's find a sport that we can get into that no one else is really doing that we can really capitalize," explained Adam Ashton, Lake County's Sports Development Coordinator. Steve Bishop is the President of the Florida Region of USA Volleyball. He says, "When I first pitched this idea some people thought I was really crazy." But it's taking off.
The Florida office for USA Volleyball is surprisingly based in nearby Eustis, so convincing the county to use nearly $400,000 in tourism tax dollars to build this state of the art volleyball complex wasn't that difficult. It opened last July, and is already on its way to paying for itself. Bishop says, "This is all new money. This is money coming n from 16 -17 different countries, spending their dollars in restaurants, convenience stores,, band-aids and Advil and things of that nature."
This international tournament is expected to bring in $200,000 over three days. It is traditionally played in Southern California, but Tavares lured it here. The sand is a big reason why -- 463 dump trucks of sand, 24 inches deep, and hand picked from the Astatula Sand Mine. Central Florida native and Florida State player Julie Brown says, "This facility is like nothing I've ever seen. I've never seen this quality of sand. It's incredible!" Brown won one match today against Honduras, lost against Costa Rica, and as she plays the rest of the weekend, she's more proof the court is a winner.
Ashton says, "It was a relatively small investment and we're getting a lot out of it so it just made perfect sense!"