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AVP Finds Life's A Beach, Then You Die

Among the most prominent of AVP players were Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Waslh, seen here in a Gatorade commercial.August 16, 2010: The Association of Volleyball Professionals, which has featured such domestic and international stars as Misty May-Treanor, Kerri Walsh, Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers, confirmed that it was shutting down due to economic pressures.

The AVP Tour "has closed its doors due to financial hardship, cutting short the 2010 season. AVP ownership [led by majority owner RJSM Partners] is not funding the tour and the AVP has been unsuccessful at finding new investors," according to an official statement from AVP.

The last event for AVP will be at Manhattan Beach, Calif. Aug. 19-22.

“Through the course of this investor search we have encountered individuals and groups with intelligence, common sense and a passion for the game of beach volleyball,” Mike Dodd, AVP commissioner, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the time constraints were such that pulling the trigger on the amount of money necessary to salvage this season were too great.

National volleyball organizers, headed by USA Volleyball, the sport's domestic governing body, still plan to compile a team that will compete in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

AVP, founded in 1983, scored points and TV ratings on NBC among its core fans and newcomers during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, during which the teams of May-Treanor and Walsh and Dalhausser and Todd Rogers won women's and men's gold medals, respectively. But AVP has been seeking to regain its footing for the past two years in a down-cycle that began around the time that long-time CEO and commissioner Leonard Armato being replaced in April 2009. The tour also lost title sponsor Crocs that year, having already seen the departure at the end of the 2008 season of such marketing partners as McDonald's, Nautica, Cuervo, Hilton and Banana Boat.

In 2010, new partnerships with such brands as Nivea and Rockstar energy drink brought in new money. AVP also signed a two-year deal to have events shown on ESPN, which began in April and was scheduled to have run through the end of August and then restart in 2011. But mounting costs led to a months long search for new investors. That, coupled with the absence in 2009 of May-Treanor (who suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in late 2008 while filming ABC's Dancing with the Stars) and Walsh (who gave birth to her first child) and other challenges ultimately ended AVP's run.

AVP sponsors this past season also included PepsiCo's Gatorade, Anheuser-Busch's Bud Lite with Lime, TwinLab, Wilson and KFC. AVP athletes had won at least one gold medal in every Olympics since beach volleyball became an Olympic sport in 1996.

“On behalf of AVP staff we want to express our sincere gratitude to fans, players, partners and sponsors,” Jason Hodell, who was promoted from COO/CFO to CEO last year to replace Armato, wrote on the AVP Web site. “Words cannot express our profound disappointment.”

ESPN had not issued an official statement.

“USA Volleyball was very saddened to hear that the Association of Volleyball Professionals pro beach volleyball tour has suspended operations for the balance of the 2010 season," USA Volleyball CEO Doug Beal and chairman David Schreff said in a joint statement. “Beach volleyball has grown in a relatively short time to be one of the most successful and popular events on the Olympic calendar. It has also recently been adopted by the NCAA as an emerging sport for women. USAV will continue to move ahead aggressively to expand our range of sanctioned events and programming support for juniors, collegiate, national team and international athletes to allow the growing beach volleyball population to pursue their dreams of local, college, national, international and Olympic success.”

According to Dodd, "Ironically this sad news comes as we approach the 50th anniversary of the Manhattan Open, our sport’s crown jewel and the one event that showed us all we could dream big. The Open has seen its ups and downs over the years and always persevered.  I’m sure our sport will do the same.”

Since 1996, AVP players earned gold medals in five Summer Olympics: Karch Kiraly/Kent Steffes (1996), Dain Blanton/Eric Fonoimoana (2000), Kerri Walsh/Misty May-Treanor (2004 and 2008) and  Phil Dalhausser/Todd Rogers (2008).

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