Picture this: come 26th November 2020, a location in the heart of Invercargill’s CBD, is going to come alive with the sounds of volleyballs being struck. The sun is shining, spectators are clapping and cheering with hats, sunglasses and sunscreen on, as they watch top athletes perform on newly-designed and built courts of sand. A six- year dream is coming to fruition, just in time for the South Island Junior Secondary School Beach Volleyball Championships.
Volleyball Southland will be hosting the 2020 South Island Junior Indoor and Beach Volleyball Championships, starting on November 22nd. November 23rd to 25th for the indoor championship, 26th November – Junior Beach Championship, and 27th - 28th November for the Southland Open and Grand Prix, where they hope to have sixteen of NZ’s top beach volleyball athletes in Invercargill, showcasing their skills and holding a development clinic in support of local athletes and coaches. The week is rounded off with some of the top players participating in exhibition games in Queenstown on November 29th.
All indoor games will be located at ILT Stadium Southland, and all beach volleyball games will be played at the former Southland Bowling Club, at 40 Forth Street, Invercargill, which is about to be transformed into The Otepuni Community Hub. It will be the new home for Southland Darts Association and Volleyball Southland.
Volleyball Southland Chair, Donna Milne said they are diversifying into Beach Volleyball, to develop and utilise the former bowling greens, while continuing to maintain their strong indoor competitions at ILT Stadium Southland.
Mrs Milne said they were expecting over 2000 people to attend across the week for the South Island junior champs plus beach events.
This number is made up of 69 indoor teams of 10 players per team. Then many of the players would go into doubles for beach in the Year 9/10 tournament.
In the beach volleyball, there would be 16 teams, and 8 teams of each gender for the Grand Prix, plus 32 teams - 16 per gender for the Southland Beach Open.
Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) is a support partner in the project, and has assisted with marketing, media and logo design. They’ve also offered student volunteers to be extra pairs of hands at the week-long event, who will be using their skills in photography, massage (the athletes), and marshalling.
“I am blown away by the Invercargill City Council (ICC), SIT and our fantastic local funder’s belief and potential investment into our vision for beach volleyball courts in the CBD, and having a community hub for people to play in, and take part in recreational activities”, Mrs Milne said.
The background story – how it all came about
Since 2014, Chair of Volleyball Southland Donna Milne has had a vision, a crazy innovative dream to put Southland on the map by creating a Beach Volleyball Hub right in the heart of Invercargill’s CBD, to give Southlanders a sense of belonging to something tangible, innovative and fun, and also to create a true destination attraction.
The realisation of this six-year dream gathered momentum when the Southland Bowling Club in Forth Street, wound up in early 2020 . At the initial site visit and upon hearing ICC Parks and Council staff were keen for it to be a shared facility, Mrs Milne collaborated with Southland Darts Association to write the expression of interest for the “Otepuni Community Hub”.
This savvy community collaboration saw two organisations who have different requirements for their sports, working together to utilise the former bowling facility to its best potential: the building for darts and the bowling greens for new beach volleyball courts - sand and all, with huge prospects for further recreation and community groups to enjoy the new purpose of the facility.
Southland Darts President Stephen Padget said “We have run our own facilities for many years, and the costs of maintaining them was becoming increasingly difficult. To come together as partners with Volleyball Southland is a great thing for us, we’re really pleased. They have already helped us find funding we would have not received in the past, and we are knowledge sharing between the two sports. Now a home together will benefit both of us”.
Mr Padget said the bowling club building was in good condition, well-suited for their needs and big enough to cater for the approximately 60 members who play weekly out of a 100-strong membership. “It’s a perfect fit for us at the moment”.
He said they would be spending money to get it properly set up for darts, and as they usually hold an NZ ranking tournament every Easter, they’ll have plenty of time (and space) to work out how they’ll be able to utilise their new building for this event.
With the development of the bowling greens for Volleyball, the flexible design for the new courts allows the six community courts to be transformed into two international- sized courts - these can be very easily set up for Grand Prix and to International standards. The poles will be removable so the hub can hire out the courts to other codes whom they’ve already had initial discussions with - Waihopai Tennis, Southland Badminton and Football.
Mrs Milne said Southland-owned company, Arnott Drainage is a long-time Volleyball supporter and has been contracted to construct the community beach volleyball courts by November 2020, in time for the week-long event.
“Our intention is to ensure all the work and materials are supplied by Southlanders for Southlanders”, she said.
Mrs Milne is also Deputy Chair of Volleyball NZ (VNZ) and is excited at the opportunity to possibly have a VNZ Regional training hub in Southland and further opportunities it has for the entire region’s development.
“Our focus on partnerships and collaboration within the community will be a win-win for all concerned. We are keen to hear from other recreation community-minded people who want to use our community hub for their knitting group, dance club, music, anything at all that fits the recreation framework”.
After the November 26th event, the facility will be available for use by the community, for all of the below:
- Ethnic Tournaments
- Church Tournaments
- Alternative Education Providers Open Grades and Social groups
- VNZ Regional Training Centre for Beach
- Masters Athletes Training Group
- Business House League
- Corporate Fundraisers & Corporate Team Building
- LGBT Tournaments
- Twilight Social League (4-aside)
- Summer Social Mixed Pairs League (2-aside)
- Primary Beach VB Training Group – Introducing the sport of Beach Volleyball
- School Holidays Beach VB Camps
- Competition Based Programmes
Intermediate and Secondary Schools
To the already existing leagues and VDP training programmes, an extension of camps and targeted training groups, has been implemented for specific athlete age groups and roles:
- Intermediate and Secondary School League
- Beach Volleyball Development Programme
- School Holidays Beach Volleyball Camps
- Referee Development Clinic
- Coach Development Clinics
From this facility, Mrs Milne believes they will improve their knowledge and capabilities within facility management, and their volunteer base will have some fantastic learning opportunities. The community will be able to develop their skills and learn at the hub’s development sessions with volleyball athletes. Coaches and players will similarly benefit.
Feel free to make contact with Volleyball Southland to express your interest in using the facility, via our website http://www.volleysouth.org.nz/Contact-1