By Stephen Witt
The sculpted bodies of half-naked athletes will invade Coney Island this summer as the AVP Beach Volleyball Tour will hold their first-ever tournament in New York. Dubbed the Brooklyn Open, the tournament is set for August 17-20 adjacent to the Coney Island Amusement Park and along the boardwalk. AVP will construct a temporary 4,000-seat stadium for the event, as well as 12 outer courts that will offer general admission seating. The event will feature 150 male and female volleyball players and will be televised live on NBC. “We are thrilled to bring the excitement of AVP to New York,” said Leonard Armato, CEO and Tour Commissioner. “Brooklyn is a great market with some of the most loyal and enthusiastic sports fans and we look forward to introducing AVP, its fans and its sponsors to this high-energy sports environment.” Armato, a former sports agent, has reportedly transformed professional beach volleyball from a fledgling player's association in the 1980s to a big business today. Revenue has increased in the sport from about $1 million in 2001 to just under $15 million last year, and its top players now collect nearly a half million dollars a year in prize money and endorsements, according to published reports. Additionally, the tour has several big corporate sponsors including Bud Light, Gatorade, McDonald's and Xbox. In 2006, the tour will host 16 events and hand out a combined $3.5 million in prize money. Partnering with AVP, Inc. as a promoter at the Brooklyn Open is Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment (BSE), an affiliate of Brooklyn developer Bruce Ratner's New Jersey Nets ownership group Nets Sports and Entertainment. BSE will be responsible for selling all local revenue for the tournament, including tickets, concessions, sponsorships and hospitality. “It is incredibly exciting for Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment to be teaming with the AVP to bring the thrill of volleyball to one of the most celebrated spots in Brooklyn,” said Brett Yormark, CEO of Nets Sports & Entertainment. “We will strive to make this tournament an historic event for the borough and to put on a great show for current and future volleyball fans on the beach. This is also an important opportunity for Brooklyn to be showcased on NBC in a significant way,” Yormark added. The AVP Brooklyn Open will kick off with a qualifier on Thursday, August 17 and continue through the weekend with the men’s and women’s finals on Saturday, August 19 and Sunday, August 20. “Coney Island is synonymous with summer sports and recreation here in New York City,” said Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe. “This summer’s tournament will offer New Yorkers the ultimate Coney Island beach experience and mark the union of the hottest, most contemporary summer sports and one of the country’s oldest, most beloved public beaches,” he added. Also praising the event was Borough President Marty Markowitz. “Beach volleyball may have had its origins on the west coast, and its Olympic premiere in Atlanta, but with an AVP tournament coming to Coney Island, the sport’s hit the big time – Brooklyn, USA!” said Markowitz. Tickets for the five ticketed sessions will be available for purchase in the early spring with an announcement of ticket information made earlier. For more information, log onto www.avp.com.