Pass, Set, Spike: Outdoor sand volleyball court opens, mayor talks business of sports

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Mayor Andy Cook and Katie Conner play volleyball at the grand opening of iBeach31. (Photos by Angie Miller)

Mayor Andy Cook often says the City of Westfield doesn’t have oceans or mountains to attract citizens Yet, the city has added sand volleyball courts to its list of amenities.

Westfield resident Katie Conner has played volleyball recreationally and professionally and has brought her expertise, accompanied by 900 tons of sand, to Westfield. Conner recently opened iBeach31, which is comprised of six outdoor sand volleyball courts, at 17341 Westfield Park Rd. She plans to acquire the adjacent facility occupied by the Indiana Soccer Academy to create four indoor sand volleyball courts within her first year of operation.

Feet in the sand

Next year, the facility has plans to host AVPFirst and AVPNext tournaments, which would bring competitors from the professional beach volleyball network and potentially hundreds of viewers to the city. But Conner said the goal of iBeach31 goes deeper than bringing the pros to Westfield.

“The misconception is people feel you have to be an elite player, but a majority of our business is run off of recreation and social play,” Conner said. “It’s really just to pull the community together to be active, get their feet in the sand and have fun.”

There are a few other sand courts in central Indiana, but Conner said iBeach31 is the only full-service venue providing recreational and social play as well as youth clinics and camps. The facility opened April 13, and Conner said 100 kids are already signed up for summer youth camps.

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From left, Mayor Andy Cook, Katie Conner and Bart Conner prepare to cut the ribbon at the grand-opening ceremony for iBeach31.

The Business of Sports

iBeach31 is not the first private-sector, sports-related business to seek out Westfield as its home. Pro X Athlete Development will soon break ground on a multi-million-dollar sports facility near Grand Park. No tax abatements were offered to either development, and Cook said he wants to attract the private-sector sports industry through creating a culture at Grand Park.

“What those (iBeach31 and Pro X) have in common is they all are 100 percent private entities that are investing in Westfield because of the sports environment, and that is exactly what we want to have happen,” Cook said. “Part of our business plan is that the private sector will invest in the sports industry because of the sports environment that we’ve created.”

Cook also applauded Conner on her creative use of space with six outdoor courts.

“(iBeach31) is economic development, but it’s also spurring creativity,” Cook said. “These are the kinds of things that will help people come here, keep them here and spend dollars here. She’s creative with not only the space, but the kinds of offering she has.”

Cook knows those offerings not only service local youth in the community but also could attract tournaments that would in turn bring more visitors to the city.

“Their business model could expand to not only serve local citizens, but with proper facilities and promotion, who knows, we may have some traveling volleyball tournaments,” Cook said. “We already have the hospitality infrastructure in place to serve such.”

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Join a league

Despite offering multiple youth leagues, clinics and camps, iBeach31 also offers adult beach volleyball leagues. Owner Katie Conner said volleyball experience is not required to join a league.

“This is a new, really neat sport that everyone can play. My goal is to really make it a community-type of atmosphere,” she said.

Adult leagues include Coed 6s, Coed 4s, Coed 2s, Men’s 4s and Women’s 4s. Prices begin at $66 per player with six weeks of regular-season play and a one-week playoffs.

Other beach sports, like beach soccer and Frisbee, also will be offered.