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City Sets Sights on Volleyball

Anaheim is hoping the U.S. men's team will make a home there after its two-week visit in July.

June 22, 2005|Dave McKibben | Times Staff Writer

As they await word on whether they will be awarded a pro football franchise, Anaheim officials are busy courting some amateurs -- the U.S. men's volleyball team.

City officials announced Tuesday the men's national team would train in town next month, and they hope the world's fifth-ranked squad will make Anaheim its permanent home later this year.

Anaheim officials are calling their venture into amateur volleyball and youth sports their new tourist initiative.

"This is our first foray into amateur sports, and it matches perfectly with our other entertainment draws -- Disneyland, California Adventure and our professional sports teams," said city spokesman John Nicoletti.

City Manager David M. Morgan hopes Anaheim can become something of an amateur sports mecca.

"A lot of our economy runs off hotel taxes, so it makes sense to bring more people into town," Morgan said. "We're looking at different models that include bringing marathons and half-marathons here, as well as other amateur sports."

Mayor Curt Pringle said landing a team that already had won two Olympic gold medals fit into the city's plan to attract more amateur sports to a region already known for professional sports.

The stakes aren't nearly as high as they are for a National Football League franchise, but Anaheim is competing to be the year-round host for the 25-man volleyball team. Oceanside, the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista and Colorado Springs, Colo., the team's current home, are also in contention.

Anaheim is competing with Los Angeles to land an NFL team after the apparent pullout two weeks ago by Pasadena.

Nicoletti says the city doesn't expect an answer from the NFL any time soon. He added that USA Volleyball probably won't pick a training site until late summer. The city believes it has the perfect venue for volleyball -- the 110,000 square-foot American Sports Center on Anaheim Boulevard, which can accommodate 22 volleyball courts. Besides, more than half of the team grew up playing the sport on Southern California beaches.

But Hugh McCutcheon, the men's coach, said much of the deal -- which could last through the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and the 2012 Games -- would be "financially driven." Nicoletti said housing, feeding and training the team would cost about $1 million a year.

"We need sponsors to pay for all that," Nicoletti said.

"The hardest part will be the room and board for all these players. But without the American Sports Center, we don't even have a sniff at this."

McCutcheon said the team, which has trained in Colorado Springs since 1997, is weighing a move to Southern California because its lower elevation is similar to Beijing's and because of the region's vast talent pool.

The volleyball team's stay will be July 2-17. Afternoon practices will be open to the public.

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