Bump, Set, Debate (Summer Volleyball Leagues)

Over the last week it was announced the City of Long Beach was likely not renewing the beach leases given to the summer volleyball leagues, but would instead turn the league into a City-run function, like the City’s softball league.

Some people, especially those connected to East End Volleyball and Evolutions Volleyball, have been up-in-arms over this City “takeover” of a program they helped grow from the ground-up.

The City argues they can run the leagues better and cheaper, while providing new equipment and better organization. Supporters of the previous league management reject that notion and don’t think its fair for a business that built itself from nothing to be dismantled once its become so successful.

As I’ve been trying to wrap my head around this, I can’t help but notice how this conversation has been shockingly mature (well, for Long Beach at least). If anything, I think the debate has been relatively civil. Residents are bringing up concerns, debating them, and in a shocking twist, the City is actually responding and engaging. Namely recently appointed Parks Director Bob Piazza has been out in front of this the entire time and has been extremely accessible.

To that point, the Parks Deparment will host a meeting on the topic tonight at 7PM at the Rec Center for those interested.

Long Beach vollerballer Terry Mcnamara met with Mr. Piazza yesterday, and had an extremely balanced and well thought out response on the Facebook page “Long Beach Volleyball Players With Voices and Votes?” I’ve posted it in full below and think it should be required reading for all those who are interested in the subject.

Gary P. and I met with Bob Piazza, director of Parks and Recreation, for about 45 minutes this afternoon. He is a good guy, very accessible, and obviously willing to meet with anyone. I will give my thoughts here and not speak for Gary.

Bob took us through the proposal that is being presented tomorrow. It talks about a league offered Tuesday through Thursday and is limited to 40 courts per night with three teams per net. The options on the table are competitive 4’s and recreational 6’s, but I imagine that may be modified as discussions continue. The plan seemed to cater to the broad spectrum of skill levels as well as the concern about the breadth of the program across the beach.

The plan does call for new equipment purchase. This is long overdue I believe. There is also a plan to award the winning teams free participation the following year, notions about opening and or closing events and the requisite t-shirt is also part of the package, because if it’s not on a t-shirt it didn’t happen in Long Beach. I welcome any new ideas to freshen up the experience.

The plan in and of itself is not a bad one in as much as there are parties within the city, tax paying and voting parties, that take issue with the peripheral activities around the leagues. The most prominent of these would be drinking, disposing of said drink after processing, and bad language and behavior. This is a public league and there are eyes and ears on the other side of the fence that are either looking for an excuse to complain, or are genuinely troubled by what they see and hear.

This is a critical issue for the city to address and one of which we are not overly cognizant. The reason we do not spend much time on this is we are volleyball players first. With all due respect there are a lot of recreational teams that are there to party first, and if a ball is available let’s play, poorly. They frequently leave more than just footprints when they depart.

Hopefully this episode will serve to develop a better product for all parties. The city needs to address non-volleyball concerns and I think we as the consumers deserve a bit better product. I know I have silently settled for what has been offered for years, just grateful that there is someone to organize and run things.

That being said I am not entirely comfortable with the city sweeping in and displacing a private enterprise that has been built over twenty plus years. Risks were taken and rewards have been earned. It is not right to force those that grew this league into what it has become to walk away empty handed.

These days outsourcing and public-private partnerships abound. I believe there is a third way to be explored here. The expertise needed to run the leagues exists and should not be squandered. The city can play a more involved role and meet the demands of other constituents.

I can’t say that I have a firm opinion either way, but I am listening and where helpful I am proposing ideas. There is a lot of passion around this topic, and rightly so, but no one should let that passion blind them from at least seeing the other point of view.

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9 thoughts on “Bump, Set, Debate (Summer Volleyball Leagues)”

  1. I honestly wouldn’t trust LB to run anything properly or smoothly…would you?

    Sounds like they think they can get a cash grab to try to balance their horribly imbalanced books. Gotta side with EEVB and the rest on this one.

    Private business always > public takeover

  2. The meeting Terry McNamara and I had with Bob Piazza yesterday was informative but has most certainly left me with the same if not stronger opinion. Let me start with the positive ideas that Terry mentioned – the plan proposes new equipment, multiple night discounts, fees would be about $150-$175 cheaper per team ( between $500-$540 for 6’s and around $450 for 4’s), the addition of opening & closing night ceremonies, playoffs in town, and regulation height nets. At first look, if I considered these ideas in and of themselves, they seem appealing. Then I start thinking.. why is this being expressed now in this way? Has any of us ever discussed these ideas with EEVB and Evolutions? Are there reasons why some of these things are not happening? How much work & investment is involved to do some of these things? Who is proposing here and what are their motivations? Why is this happening right when registration should be taking place? If you peel away the layers here you might find some of your answers.

    Let’s tackle the money issue because that’s where my ears perked up when I saw the discounted fees. What the plan doesn’t say is that the leagues get charged $150 per team by the City already! The City is only graciously passing on the discount of its own fees to the leagues, and would be POCKETING the rest of the revenue. And where are they getting the seed money from to buy all this equipment, t-shirts, ceremonies & overhead for “volleyball specialists” (Bob’s words, not mine), to run the league??
    While the $ part speaks to us all, if you look closer at the details, what is the cost / benefit of individually saving between $15 – $40 for a summer of league play? The current leagues have organized and built the community we know today. EEVB has connected players to awesome tournaments up and down the east coast and continues to build the network for this sport. Sure, there are improvements that could be offered by both leagues, the problem here is they weren’t given the opportunity to discuss them before the City told the league owners that they would not be getting permits this year! Cmon now, the plan proposers have ALREADY built their website! Collusion between the City and the plan owners?? We’re smarter than this.

    Motivations here should certainly raise our eyebrows. The City told us that they only got the proposal in the past two weeks. Now, Bob said he’s only been onboard in the Parks department for around 5+ weeks but he is certainly not new to the City government or its politics. He’s had a long career here. What we are seeing today is the City, through two proposals (both offering significant benefit to the City’s coffers), looking to swoop in, and usurp the business of two leagues that have been a staple in our community for 25 years. The City’s plan doesn’t tell you that it’s looking to start small like taking a Friday or a failing Monday night – the plan calls for taking Tuesday through Thursday and adding Monday and perhaps Friday. The volley-balls here are pretty big. The second plan/idea which the City supports, would be an “Association” running the leagues. This option gives the City heavy influence and allows them to gradually take a larger percentages of fees. Investment capital, insurances, 501(c)3) set up, board etc are key to this plan and those things have NOT been planned / thought through at all. Employment/jobs for the proposers are also motivators. I am all for a Long Beach Volleyball Association guys, but I think the purpose for such a group is to organize; to collaborate and deal with issues that face our sport in this City; to have a unified voice that represents us all, not the nonsense “private” party meetings we have all been having to deal with this mess. To me, that is the purpose of an Association. Not to run leagues. Do you see the Long Beach Surfers Association, are they looking to charge admission to surf? Are they looking to take over Skudin’s surf camps?

    So again.. the question we should all ask is why is this happening all now? The City called Evolutions and EEVB over the phone last week and told them “they were going in another direction” and it’s proposers already have a website ready to go! Council members like Fran Adelson are doing “fact finding” missions only AFTER the leagues blasted emails to their members and I posted the event to Help Save Our Volleyball Leagues in Long Beach in every possible digital corner of Long Beach! Where was Fran interacting in the volleyball community in the early part of February when this plan was really being hashed out in the City? It should be clear, the government and our elected leaders are not and should not be in the business of volleyball. I commend them, they clearly see a good business but their methods and motives are transparent. They got greedy and they didn’t count on the voting block they are up against. Beware, they are still trying to wheedle their way through empathizing ears of the Volleyball community but I’m pretty sure we are all smarter than that. The City and the proposers of these plans will be presenting TODAY @ 7pm at the REC CENTER, I encourage you to attend so you can see what they are proposing yourself. As I said before, some of the ideas are decent. My opinion is we should use this meeting as a forum to listen and address any concerns we have not addressed to EEVB / Evolutions. This has definitely been a wake-up call for their respective businesses. I agree with Terry, I’m sure at this point Rich and Kevin both know they can be doing better. My 2 cents – I think multiple night discounts is a great idea along with league winners registrations being waived for the following year. All that being said, I believe we should give these two leagues the time to be responsive, they don’t deserve for their businesses and more importantly OUR leagues to just be taken away – either by the City or an Association.

  3. Gary, you have yet to make a valid point in any of your posts other than a political rambling. I’m not going to repeat myself from my other posts as you have yet to reply to me. Please answer my questions I’ve previously asked you.

  4. Richard Boodman
    12:20 pm on Tuesday, March 13, 2012

    If there has been an ongoing public safety and sanitation issue and the taxpayers are being short changed, it might just be time for a change.

    Bob Piazza has a track record that’s 2nd to none when it comes to doing what’s right for the people of Long Beach

  5. i’m sorry you feel this is political. there are no politics being spoken here at all. democrats and republicans comprise our council and this is an issue that affects the entire vball community. i don’t think i can be anymore clear than I have been. i have also taken a ridiculous amount of time out of my schedule, to help advocate in this matter. if you have more questions about the City’s plan, come to the Rec center tonight and hear about it. Tuesday, March 20th @ 7pm will be the City Council meeting that a majority of the Volleyball community will be attending to address issue as a group if it is not resolved before then.

  6. You’re not getting your answers because he either can’t or doesn’t want to answer them. The city got $65,000 from the leagues last year. The leagues brought in somewhere around $300,000 (250 teams paying $720 each, plus sponsorships). Yes, EEVB and Evolutions are making a nice dime off this.

    Only real grey area I see here is the morality of the city taking over what was a private venture. Personally, if they can provide the residents with an equal product for less of an expense, I’m all for it. That is, afterall, damn near the definition of public good, which is the business government is suppose to be engaged in, right?

  7. LBEsq: I honestly wouldn’t trust LB to run anything properly or smoothly…would you?Sounds like they think they can get a cash grab to try to balance their horribly imbalanced books. Gotta side with EEVB and the rest on this one.Private business always > public takeover

    +1, well said LBEsq

  8. Politics aside lets examine the cost. First the law suit and injunctions as i cannot imagine w/wo a formal contract that a business would let the city steal this from them. Lets say the city is successful the cost of planning, logistics and equipment is required. Id assume to put a quality program in effect requires a year of planning. Then staffing… are these city employees, part time, overtime, pension costs, liability costs…… at the end of the day what is my tax burden for this takover…. if a municipality can run a business better than the private sector it would be a first. I can only imagine registration now would be like going to the DMV. What next sieze control of the Applecore hockey program…….

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