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Coming to Tampa's riverfront — beach volleyball

TAMPA — It's had ice-skating in the winter. Now, for the first time, Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park will offer beach volleyball this summer.

The white-sand court is going in this week for Saturday's Tampa Bay Margarita Festival, but it's staying through July 31.

"We thought it would be pretty cool, like an urban beach kind of thing," said Ferdian Jap of Big City Events, which is organizing the margarita fest.

Promoters liked the idea of setting up and then leaving the court behind for a while. When the Tampa Downtown Partnership saw their plans, it was an easy sell.

"We were all like, 'How do we just keep this downtown for the whole summer?' " said Shaun Drinkard, the partnership's director of placemaking. The group hopes volleyball generates more activity for the park and traffic for nearby restaurants, shops and museums.

After Memorial Day, the space is certainly available.

"It's usually a dead time because of the heat, so I think this is great," Mayor Bob Buckhorn said. The mayor also likes the idea of bringing something new to the park, which the city and downtown partnership want to keep active, plus hosting a sport that appeals to the young, urban professionals he wants to attract to Tampa.

The court is going on the site of the ice-skating rink, which already has a base of sand under the sod.

Costs are minimal. The promoters are spending about $2,000 to bring in another 20 tons of sand and set up the court. The partnership is spending another $1,500. The city provided labor and temporarily removed the sod (something it does for ice-skating, too).

The court will be 30 by 60 feet, with a 2-foot-tall windscreen to keep sand from blowing away and the ball from rolling onto Ashley Drive. The court will be open for public play on a first-come, first-served basis.

This isn't the first active-sporting experiment Big City Events has brought to downtown Tampa.

In December, the company set up a pop-up driving range in the 500 and 600 blocks of Franklin Street. Six cranes held up a net enclosing the range. Golfers won prizes for hitting a gong at the far end. In one day, the range sold 2,000 buckets of balls.

"Part of our mission as a company is to do cool events that activate downtown and have never been done before," Jap said. "We sit around and think of crazy events."

Richard Danielson can be reached at Danielson@tampabay.com, (813) 226-3403 or @Danielson_Times on Twitter.

Coming to Tampa's riverfront — beach volleyball 05/22/13 [Last modified: Thursday, May 23, 2013 12:05am]
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