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Festival organizers excited about Sparks venue
by Damian Tromerhauser
Jun 29, 2012 | 868 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Sparks Marina is set to showcase something most Rail City residents have rarely been exposed to in the world of sports. This weekend the Sparks Marina will host the Sparks Xtreme Beach Sports Festival, bringing both the Extreme Volleyball Professionals (EVP) tour and the Upstate Watercraft Promotions International Jet Sport Boating Association’s (UWP-IJSBA) watercross national tour to the Rail City.

This will be the first time these combined pro events will visit the West coast. A western destination has always been on the to-do list for both of the tours.

“I think the main thing from our standpoint is that both of our organizations are Midwest and East coast operators of tours, so we want to bring our talent this way for prospective fans and to make it a national event,” EVP President Ross Balling said. “I think that’s what everybody’s goal is. The bottom line was that our jet ski and watercross partner wanted to go to the West. After their decision to go there they asked us to come with them.”

For UWP President AJ Handler, Sparks offered the perfect opportunity to expand the tour.

“We had a lot of requests from our athletes as well as some cities to go out West,” Handler said. “We figured ‘Why not Sparks?’ you know. There was so much hospitality when we had conversations with Sparks. That was one of the great things about Sparks. We had several meetings with the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority and it was their hospitality that won us over. We just felt welcomed.

“That, plus it’s surrounded by beautiful scenery. There are beautiful mountains and it’s a beautiful area, so we thought it was a great location. I’m excited to be here. It’s kind of funny because we’re high in elevation so there are no bugs, which we’re not used to. Sparks has fantastic weather. That combined with the scenery, it’s kind of hard to beat.”

While most people are aware of how beach volleyball works, viewers will be in for an unknown spectacle when the jet skis take to the water for the watercross races.

“Our organization is like NASCAR on water,” Handler said. “Some of the folks that do like NASCAR will like this. You have to experience it firsthand. That’s basically the best comparison that I can give. They’re really going to enjoy the show this weekend.”

With the UWP-IJSBA National Tour headlining the Xtreme Beach Sports Festival, spectators will be able to take in plenty of racing. The stop in Sparks will represent round 4 of a seven-round nationwide tour. Throughout Saturday and Sunday, over 200 watercraft teams from around the U.S. will compete. Racing begins at 10:15 a.m. Saturday, with Pro Roundabout races set for 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. The competition continues at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, with the pro freestyle finals scheduled to begin at noon. Fans will be able to grab autographs from the pro racers during four different sessions on both days from 11:20 a.m. to 1:20 p.m.

As the waters of the Marina will be busy, so will the beach volleyball courts.

Starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday, two-player teams will battle for a $5,000 grand prize. The pros will not be the only ones getting in on the action. A corporate challenge will take place on Friday starting at 3 p.m. with 4-on-4 volleyball. Teams made up of sponsors, city officials and local media will compete. A clinic with EVP pros will be available at 11 a.m.

“The nice thing is that the event is open to multiple levels,” Balling said. “Normally, in an EVP tour event we’ll have three levels before the women’s pro with a women’s A and then a junior 16 and a junior 14 division. On the men’s side, we usually have five levels. For this year it looks like it is kind of going to be a volleyball exhibition, but we should have at least four top pro teams from our series and four local teams going head-to-head.

“It’s a free event so volleyball fans can come out and enjoy,” Balling said. “There’s an amazing amount of volleyball fanatics out there, and that is a good thing. When you eat, drink and sleep volleyball it’s nice to know there’s other people out there like you. If they make it at 3 p.m., which will be the start of our semis and finals, they are going to get to watch some great volleyball. That’s what a lot of families and spectators are really looking for.”

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