Push to bring beach volleyball to Lake County



LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - Beach volleyball, as the name suggests, is typically an ocean side sport. But some people believe the middle of Lake County is a fine spot for the game.

County officials may spend $400,000 taxpayer dollars to build a 2-acre complex at the Hickory Point Recreational Facility in Tavares.

The city of Leesburg already rejected the idea of a beach volleyball facility because some residents lived too close to the proposed site. That isn't an issue with the proposed Tavares location.

Steve Bishop said he has searched high and low for his own field of dreams.

"Ten years. As they say, 'perseverance does pay off,'" said Bishop.

Bishop will ask Lake County leaders to build a twenty court beach volleyball complex on the site that now has a retention pond.

"The NCAA introduced (beach volleyball) as an emerging sport three years ago, and it's gone from zero teams to forty teams across the U.S. in a three year period," said Bishop.

Bishop is director of the Florida region of USA Volleyball. He organizes Olympic-level tournaments all over the state -- usually along the ocean or Gulf.

He said the property, owned by the Lake County Water Authority, is perfect. According to Bishop, construction could cost $400,000. County officials believe they have a way to come up with the money.

"Tourist tax -- you need to use it to promote tourism. And the one thing about beach volleyball, we know it will put, as we say, heads in beds," said Lake County Commissioner Jimmy Conner.

Organizers said each tournament would draw up to 600 players and spectators who would fill local hotels and restaurants. Although the site is currently a retention pond the water authority said it won't flood.

"Even during the time when we had a significant amount of rain -- during the hurricanes of 2004 -- we never saw ponding water in that retention area. A little puddle, but that was about it," said Mike Perry with the Water Authority.

The County Commission will vote on the project at a meeting next Tuesday.

Bishop said he'd want to start construction immediately.