Big beach volleyball tournament coming to Calgary in July

Come July, the southwest parking lot at the Deerfoot Inn and Casino will look a lot different.

That's because it will turn from concrete into sand as it will be the site of the 2022 Stampede Open Pro Beach Volleyball event.

Ben Saxton is one of Calgary's best volleyball players.  He played on Canada's beach volleyball team at the 2016 in Rio de Janeiro but he won't be playing in the event.  Instead, he will be the tournament chair. 

Saxton's job is to bring in the talent and he says there will be plenty at the Stampede Open.

"For the city it will be huge," the former Olympian said.

"As far as the level of play is involved it's going to be as close to a world tour event without being a world tour event as you can get.

"It's going to be the highest level of play just without being the Olympic champions."

BIG PRIZE MONEY

48 teams will compete in the Stampede Open, 24 on the men's side and another 24 on the women's side.

There will be $40,000 in prize money that will be split evenly between the men and women.

Claire Crossfield is from Calgary and can't wait to compete in front of her friends and family. 

Crossfield hopes the Stampede Open leads to bigger and better things for the sport in Canada.

"I'm excited how much the sport has already grown and just to see where it can go.

"Absolutely a national tour is something we want to do in the future and absolutely a world tour spot as well."

IMPORTANCE OF SPORT

Besides Canadians competing in the Stampede Open, we'll also see teams here from the United States and Brazil.

It's been a good week for drawing sporting events to Calgary.  On Tuesday it was announced Calgary will play host to the third window of group stage games for the upcoming Basketball Champions League of Americas at Winsport.

President and C.E.O. of Sport Calgary, Catriona Le May Doan says it's important to bring these kinds of events to the city.

"It's an opportunity for people to talk about sport, especially coming out of the pandemic," the former Olympian said.

"That is the biggest message right now is that we have to make sport a priority because the physical side, the social side and the mental health side.  So an event like this is going to be so key."

FROM CONCRETE TO SAND

Because winter is just around the corner, it's hard to imagine what the venue will look like in July.

Michael Seguin, Deerfoot Inn and Casino's director of sporting events, said he's been working on this for a while and said it's going to look great when the sand is trucked and the entire lot is turned into a volleyball event centre.

"In here, the middle of the parking lot is where we're going to have the primary court is the idea," Seguin said.

"Around that is going to be the staging as we did mention or the seating for approximately 12-1500 people," he added.

"There will be three other courts around that main courtm with secondary seating for up to 300 different people."

There will also be a kid's family fun zone, a beer gardens, concession stands and vendor areas as well. 

The event is expected to pump $4 million into the local economy.