Atlanta sports new downtown beach for pro volleyball tournament

ATLANTA — The middle of downtown Atlanta may not be where you’d expect to find a giant sandbox.

“We’re so used to playing on the beach. But anytime we can come and get into the city, I always love it,” beach volleyball player Sarah Sponcil said.

Sponcil is among 64 of the finest professional beach volleyball players on the planet who are in town for a big tournament called the AVP Gold Series Atlanta Open.

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“The history here is incredible. I fell in love with beach volleyball because of the Olympics,” player Terese Cannon said.

The 1996 games in Atlanta is where the sport really took off. It was the first time it was an official Olympic sport.

Emily Stockman is the only one of the players we talked to Thursday who had been born then. She was too young to remember.

“Honestly, the first time I watched the Olympics was in 2008,” Stockman said.


But Atlanta’s impact was huge. The pros have come here for the second year in a row and are very impressed with a hometown crowd that doesn’t get to see much of this in person.

“They were awesome. The night games were super loud. Definitely, 10 out of 10,” player Megan Kraft said.

While most of the tournament sites are right along an ocean somewhere, these pros say a volleyball court is a volleyball court.

“It’s definitely different seeing the skyscrapers and setting the ball and seeing stuff in the background. But other than that, if there’s a ball, a net, and some lines, it’s all the same,” Sponcil said.

The tournament will run from Friday to Sunday at Atlantic Station in midtown. There are 32 teams in all, and organizers brought in 200 tons of sand. Tickets are still available.

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