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Manhattan Beach to consider curbing massive volleyball tournament

Since 1961, the city has hosted the Charlie Saikley 6-Man Volleyball Tournament. But attendance has grown to 60,000, and businesses and residents complain about excessive partying and trash.

May 03, 2010|By Jeff Gottlieb
  • The Kwaykuz (foreground) take part in the Charlie Saikely 6-Man Volleyball Tournament in Manhattan Beach last August. Residents and businesses complain about attendees leaving beer bottles and other trash, urinating in public and partying into the early morning.
The Kwaykuz (foreground) take part in the Charlie Saikely 6-Man Volleyball… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)

Since 1961, the city has hosted the Charlie Saikley 6-Man Volleyball Tournament. But attendance has grown to 60,000, and businesses and residents complain about excessive partying and trash.

[body]You might find 3,000 people on the sand on the average summer Saturday in Manhattan Beach. Except when the Charlie Saikley 6-Man Volleyball Tournament comes to town.

Then serious volleyball mixes with outrageous partying. Olympic gold medalists and other top pros may play a team dressed as WWE wrestlers or a squad dressed as Magnum P.I., down to the Tom Selleck mustaches and Hawaiian shirts.

Last year, an estimated 60,000 people crowded the beach during the tournament's first day — almost twice the population of the city, and many times more than attend the Manhattan Beach Open, beach volleyball's premier event. The sand was so packed that teams had trouble getting to their next match on one of the 42 courts.

"It was scary," said Manhattan Beach hotel and restaurateur Michael Zislis. "There were so many people on the beach, I've never seen anything like it."

Not that Zislis is complaining. His 38-room Shade hotel sells out the day the tournament date is announced. His four downtown restaurants are so crowded they don't take reservations, but they do bring in security guards.

As the tournament has grown from a local event attended by a few thousand volleyball aficionados to one that has gained a national reputation as a great party, some in Manhattan Beach are wondering whether it needs to be scaled back.

"I don't even know if you can call most of the people who show up fans," said tournament director J Parker Saikley. "They just heard through the Internet it's a party."

Which is why the City Council on Tuesday is expected to take steps to control the crowd for the July 31-Aug.1 event. The panel is mulling moving the tournament date so fewer people attend, adding more security or fencing the area.

Though alcohol is banned on the county-owned beach, spectators sneak it in. In a report to the City Council, the Police Department said it has seen more drinking in recent years, especially among the underage.

Residents and businesses complain about attendees leaving behind beer bottles and other trash, urinating in public and partying into the early morning.

"It's either going to be no tournament because of that blatant disrespect for law and rules of the tournament, or it's going to be much more regulated so it's going to take fun out of it," Saikley said.

Saikley's father started the six-man tournament as part of the International Surf Festival in 1961. According to the city, attendance has jumped over the last six years from 20,000 to 60,000, and there are worries it could continue to grow. The number of teams has remained about 200, each with 20 members.

Just getting your squad registered can be a victory, and for all but the best teams from the previous year, it must be done in person. Still teams from as far away as Florida and Texas sign up. Last year a team made up of former players from the Italian national team entered.

Mark Lehman, Manhattan Beach's recreational services manager, said that last year people started camping outside City Hall at noon the day before registration opened. If men's teams weren't in line by 11 p.m., they didn't get a spot; the women's open division filled up late in the morning.

The mix of teams means that the guys down the street may be matched against AVP pros, sort of like playing pickup basketball against Kobe Bryant or riding your bike with Lance Armstrong. Many squads come in costume. One team dresses as Masters tournament golf caddies; a woman's group, Team Mile High, comes as flight attendants. Hockey players Marty McSorley and Rob Blake are regulars with a team consisting mainly of NHL players. Laker Luke Walton has played, as has former Laker Kurt Rambis. Wilt Chamberlain showed up in the old days.

"There's nothing like this anywhere," said Kevin Cleary, a former pro volleyball player who has been playing in the tournament for 35 years. "There are events that are professional and a high level of volleyball, and there are novelty events, but there's nothing that combines the festivities of six-man with the high level of volleyball."

While the winners receive only T-shirts and a medal, the pros are enthusiastic about the event. A few years ago, Cleary said, Olympic gold medalist Phil Dalhausser was playing on his team. The week of the 6-man, however, Dahlhausser was playing a tournament in Switzerland. He played poorly, though, and called Cleary to tell him he had been eliminated early.

Understanding the opportunity this presented their squad, a team member paid for Dahlhausser's flight back, hoping he'd make it in time. His team began losing points on purpose and wasting time, hoping Dahlhausser would make it in time to play the one point that would make him eligible for Sunday, when the best volleyball is played.

He arrived just as the match ended, too late for Sunday.

Still, said Cleary, "It tells you how much weight and juice it has for the players."

jeff.gottlieb@latimes.com

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