AAU pivots to postpone volleyball tournament expected to draw 15,000 in Florida

The self-described “largest volleyball event in the world” will no longer be played in Florida next month despite organizers maintaining up until Friday that it would continue despite the COVID-19 crisis.

The Amateur Athletic Union and Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) announced Friday “out of an abundance of caution” it would postpone the 47th AAU Junior National Volleyball Championships to July 14 in Orlando, Florida. They were originally scheduled for June 16-28. As many as 15,000 people from 34 states were estimated to be attending over the span of 12 days.

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AAU President & CEO Dr. Roger J. Goudy said in a statement:

“Our goal has always been to host the AAU Junior National Volleyball Championships when, and where, it was deemed safe to do so and with all necessary containment and mitigation measures in place. In working with OCCC, we recognize the current status of the disease precludes us from meeting that goal by the original dates in June. Therefore, out of an abundance of caution, the decision was made to move the AAU Volleyball event to start July 14. We appreciate everyone’s support and understanding as we continue to navigate these uncharted waters during this time.”    

The AAU was committed to holding the event in June and announced additional precautions this week. Among them was eliminating neutral spectators and the opening ceremony, disallowing international teams and requiring temperature checks and face masks.

Finances could play part in decision

In justifying the decision to go forward, the organization noted the economic impact to the Central Florida community. OCCC executive director Mark Tester said in Friday’s statement the location remains “committed to the economic resiliency of our clients.”

The announcement to postpone came less than 24 hours after the Thursday deadline for teams to withdraw from the event and get a full refund, per Tom Schad at USA Today. As of Wednesday evening more than 70 percent of the 1,800 teams that had initially registered had pulled out. Per Schad, more than 200 pulled out within a 24-hour window this week.

That’s a huge financial hit to take for what should be the “largest volleyball event in the world” both in the pocket and visibility wise.

Why will July be better for AAU?

The AAU volleyball tournament in Florida that was expected to draw up to 15,000, even with COVID-19 restrictions, was postponed. (Getty Images)

The state of Florida deemed sports an essential business and Gov. Ron DeSantis insisted sporting events can be held safely in the state. That’s how AAU was able to forge ahead with its event.

Its precautionary measures were good first steps to mitigate the spread of the virus, but cases in Florida continue to rise. Individuals may contract it and then take it home where the spread continues as states are trying to come out of strict stay-at-home orders. It’s a far different situation to hold such a large event versus a closed-doors UFC fight.

The extra time will also allow OCCC to implement more thorough plans to help mitigate the disease as it begins to host events again. The location plans to implement Recovery and Resiliency Guidelines developed in consultation with the Orange County’s Health Services Department. That will help it get the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) STAR accreditation, recognized as the gold standard of safe venues, to keep a safe environment during the COVID-19 crisis.

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