2,000 players, family members and spectators are expected to head to Siesta Key between July 20-25.
Siesta Key will get a few more visitors than usual for this time of year, thanks to a large-scale youth volleyball championship hosted by the popular public beach.
The USA Volleyball Junior Beach Tour Championships will bring 2,000 people to Siesta Key over six days starting Thursday, according to Visit Sarasota County’s Sport Sales Manager Sarah Thomas — a number that includes 800 athletes and their families who will be staying on and off Siesta Key.
“We’re actually very heavily involved in this event, which is unique for us,” Thomas said. “Usually we act more as a sponsor, but for this event we are actually helping with some of the coordination.”
This includes arranging accommodations for staff and organizing supplies needed for the event.
Four hundred teams from across the country are participating, composed of boys and girls between 10 and 18 years old.
Thomas said her organization is pleased to have the event in the area during July, when tourism and traffic is typically slower.
“It’s a national championship, so it’ll get a lot of attention and bring a lot of people here,” she said.
While any large event on the Key is a parking concern, Thomas said she and her staff have worked to make everyone aware of the different transportation options, such as the Breeze Trolley.
Additionally, the event is structured in such a way that only about 1,000 people are expected each day of the event, which Thomas hoped would minimize concerns of Siesta Key residents.
Admission to the event will be free, and so will parking. Thomas said part of the organizers’ goal is to educate people about the sport.
“They welcome [beachgoers] to come over and check it out and see the competition,” she said. “It’s open to the public, there’s no admission, and they’re really trying to make it a fun and educational event.”
The tournament is the final stop for the Junior Beach Tour, a U.S. tour that started in January. The top three winners of each division from 90 tour locations earned a spot in the championship’s open division. Players who did not make it to the open division can play in the club division.
July 20-23 will host the boys 12-and-under and 14-and-under, and girls 12-and-under and 16-and-under in both the open and club divisions. The final days will host the boys 16-and-under through 18-and-under, and the girls 14-and-under through 18-and-under in both the open and club divisions.
Mark Paaluhi, USAV Junior Beach Tour manager, is eager to host the championships on Siesta Beach, he said in a release.
“Siesta Key has always been special and one of my favorite beaches.”