When the Capitol Hill Volleyball Classic was first played in 2006, it occupied one hall at Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The rest belonged to Washington, D.C.’s annual boat show over Presidents Day weekend. A decade later, an estimated 40,000 athletes, coaches and spectators will take over the entire facility, filling at least 16,000 hotel room nights and bringing an estimated $19.2 million to D.C. on what would otherwise be a quiet weekend in terms of events. As for the boat show, it set sail years ago when the economy went south.
The USA Volleyball-sanctioned tournament has grown so large that the husband-and-wife organizing team of Bonnie and Barry Goldberg (American University’s women’s volleyball coach for 27 years) cut off registration at 936 teams this year, leaving hundreds of qualified teams out in the cold (and it’s bitter cold in Washington this weekend). Elliott Ferguson, president and CEO of Destination DC, says the city may explore using nearby Verizon Center to accommodate the event’s growth, calling it one of the CVB’s top 10 moneymakers. But Bonnie, the tournament’s executive director, is unsure how she’ll handle the increased numbers, one of the subjects Connect Sports discussed with her ahead of one of the country’s biggest volleyball events.
Can you describe the tournament’s growth?
The first year, we had 144 teams, which was quite good because we opened registration in December for the February event. We were in one hall and the boat show had the rest of the building. We were told not to go to the boat show, but all the boat show people kept coming to our hall to watch volleyball. The second year, we had 276 teams. Our numbers kept going up. We kept adding 100 teams per year. The boat show broke its lease when the economy went south and nobody was buying boats. Last year we filled the whole building.
What do you attribute to the increased numbers?
I think it’s the sport. There was a report by the National Federation of State High School Associations saying that girls volleyball, as of last year, is the No. 1 team sport. It overtook basketball. Participation is higher in track and field, but that’s an individual sport.