This summer, the AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour returns to New Orleans, marking the first time the tour’s hit the Crescent City since 1999 for men and 1995 for women. Head to the shores of Lake Pontchartrain in Kenner on Memorial Day weekend for this fun and free event at Laketown – we’ll see you on the sand! In the mean time, read on for details about the event, plus our interview with Olympian and No. 1-ranked AVP player Kerri Walsh Jennings.
Simply put, Coconut Beach is a must-see. Located in the New Orleans suburb of Kenner, Coconut Beach is the largest sand sports complex in the United States. It only makes sense, then, that one of the most iconic volleyball complexes will host the AVP tournament’s qualifying event prior to the main draw.
Clocking in at more than 100,000 square feet, Coconut Beach is also used for sand soccer and sand dodge ball. New Orleans is one of those places where you can play outdoors almost year-round, especially at a facility like Coconut Beach.
Olympian and No.1-ranked AVP player Kerri Walsh Jennings won’t be playing on the Coconut Beach courts (the courts host a qualifying event on Thursday before the main draw competition), but she is quick to acknowledge the venue’s appeal.
“They’ve done such a great job with it,” Walsh Jennings says. “I was able to fly out for an appearance in February, and the reception was amazing. Beautiful sand, a ton of courts, music going on, great food – it’s entertaining on so many levels.”
A Who’s Who of Volleyball Stars
The AVP tournament will include a trio of Olympians: Phil Dalhausser, April Ross, and Walsh Jennings. The latter pair is a powerhouse when it comes to volleyball – in 2014, partners Ross and Walsh Jennings won the AVP St. Petersburg Open and the FIVB Tournament in Fozhou China.
Though Walsh Jennings has had her share of successful tournaments, she’s especially looking forward to the New Orleans portion of AVP Pro Beach Volleyball tour.
“New Orleans is the first stop on the tour, and it’s a really big deal,” she says. “We want to set the tone, and we want to be dominant competitively.”
Still, Walsh Jennings plans to work in time to experience New Orleans from a family perspective: she, her husband (tour player Casey Jennings), and their three children plan to go to the Aquarium of the Americas and the Audubon Zoo.
“I’m ready to come and experience the culture of New Orleans,” she says. “I know how great it is down there, and I’m so excited to share it with my kids.”
In addition to Olympians like Walsh Jennings, the tournament will feature plenty of other volleyball players at the top of their professional game. No. 1-ranked men’s partners Casey Patterson and Jake Gibb will pair up once again for the New Orleans stop of the AVP Tour; Lane Carico and Amanda Dowdy, the two youngest players on the tour, will also be headed to New Orleans for the event.
Even More to Do
As a mother of three, Walsh Jennings is particularly excited about volleyball’s capacity to encourage everyone, especially kids.
“Whether you’re a family or single or partnered up, it’s an inspiring event,” she says. “For little kids, it’s so aspirational – you can plant seeds for them that if you work hard, you could maybe do this one day.”
Follow @visitneworleans on Twitter for all the latest on the AVP tournament – plus a chance to win awesome volleyball swag like court-side stadium cabanas, skybox suite access, VIP passes, a meet-and-greet autograph session, and more.
No matter which day you attend, you’ll enjoy a festival atmosphere with food, music, and of course some of the world’s best volleyball talent.
“People can come and hang with us all weekend and not feel guilty about it,” says Walsh Jennings, “because they’ll have a long weekend to recover!”
The Complete Schedule
The AVP tournament runs from Thursday, May 21 through Sunday, May 24.
Thursday, May 21: Coconut Beach opens at 7:30 a.m. with competition running roughly from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.
Friday, May 22: The first day of the main draw tournament is on Friday at Laketown, with competition running from about 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Saturday, May 23: Day two of the main draw tournament runs from about 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Sunday, May 24: Finals day! Tournament finals begin at 12:30 p.m. with competition running roughly from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.