The Manhattan Beach Open, known as the Wimbledon of Beach Volleyball, is making a comeback.
The future of the tournament has been up in the air for months.
Last year the event producer, the Association of Volleyball Professionals shut down the tour citing financial trouble.
The city of Manhattan Beach cobbled together a scaled back version of the tournament in 2010, but some fans were turned off. Top prize money was as low as $4,000.
Now, two new producers have stepped in to save the tournament. USA Volleyball and Entertainment giant IMG have drawn some big sponsors.
It’s now part of the Jose Cuevero Pro Beach Volleyball Series. Tournament winners can take home prize money totaling up to $200,000. That’s the largest beach volleyball purse in the nation.
Tournament Producer and IMG Senior Vice President James Leitz says the turmoil over the past year has had a big impact on the sport.
“When something happens like last year, it erodes a lot of confidence, not just from the fan base, but from the industry itself," according to Leitz. "Sponsors. The media. You start to lose a lot of momentum and energy. So for this to make a comeback, it means a lot.”
Beach Volleyball star Dain Blanton, who won the 2000 Olympic Gold Medal is now working as a broadcaster for the event. He says he is confident the fans will return.
“There’s such a deep tradition here in Manhattan Beach," according to Blanton. "This tournament has been here for 50 years and the community embraces it. The players love to play here. If you win you get your name on a plaque on the pier, so it’s a lot of tradition. People will come out and it will be a great event.”
Admission to the event is free. The games get underway Saturday morning at 8:30 and run through Sunday evening.