Tournament part of Queen's long-term plans

Queen’s wants to host more national championships in near future, Athletics Director Leslie Dal Cin says

The visiting men’s volleyball coaches share a laugh at the CIS tournament’s opening press conference on Thursday morning.
The visiting men’s volleyball coaches share a laugh at the CIS tournament’s opening press conference on Thursday morning.
Outside hitter Joren Zeeman was named to the CIS first-team all-star team on Thursday morning.
Outside hitter Joren Zeeman was named to the CIS first-team all-star team on Thursday morning.

The CIS men’s volleyball championship this weekend is part of Queen’s Athletics’ larger plan to become one of Canada’s leading athletics programs, according to Athletics Director Leslie Dal Cin.

“We build our teams to be competitive in championships. We’re prepared to host championships,” she said.

“It helps us with recruiting, it helps us with town-gown relations, it helps with being a recognized player in the sport development community. It helps us link up with provincial and national sport organizations.

“You’re on the map in terms of CIS sport and sport in Ontario.”

Queen’s wasn’t awarded the national volleyball championship — its first-ever CIS indoor championship — until 2009. But planning for an indoor championship started as early as 2006.

“[The PEC] precluded any sort of hosting of an indoor championship ... We haven’t been on the national scene for a long time because our facilities didn’t allow us to be,” Dal Cin said, adding that the $230-million ARC was specifically designed to host national indoor championships.

When Queen’s bid for the championship in May 2009, Athletics predicted they would need $137,150 in revenue to break even. But Dal Cin said that amount has dropped because of corporate sponsorship.

Expenses have dropped for the same reason, so Athletics needs to sell fewer tickets. Dal Cin budgeted for $82,250 in ticket sales in the 2009 bid, but she said Athletics only needs $60,000 in ticket sales to cover its costs.

“We’ve already sold $12,000 in advanced ticket sales,” she said. “The tendency at Queen’s is a walk-up crowd — they walk up to the gate, they don’t pre-buy their ticket.”

But before hosting the men’s volleyball championship — a high-profile CIS tournament — Athletics needed experience hosting low-key national events.

They hosted the 2009 CIS cross-country championship, the 2010 FISU cross-country championships and men’s volleyball preseason tournaments for the last two seasons. The tournaments helped Athletics to set up this weekend’s 175-person volunteer base.

Even with the modern ARC facilities and experience hosting major tournaments, Queen’s still needed a team that was good enough to contend for a national championship.

“There’s nothing worse than being the [last] seed and hosting,” Dal Cin said.

Men’s volleyball coach Brenda Willis had brought in six recruits for the 2007-08 season to form the core of a team that would contend for the 2012 CIS championship. In their first two years, the Gaels won back-to-back silver medals.

“We looked at the profile of the [men’s volleyball] team and we saw that we had this cohort that was traveling through the program that was an awesome recruiting class,” Dal Cin said.

Dal Cin and Willis began talking in December 2008 about hosting a national championship. Willis said they began drafting the championship bid in March 2009, after her team lost to the McMaster Marauders in the OUA final for the second consecutive year.

On May 19, 2009, Queen’s submitted a bid to the CIS — a month later, Queen’s was awarded the 2012 championship, beating out the University of Sherbrooke, Calgary, Waterloo, Laval and Saskatchewan.

Queen’s had to make a $20,000 payment to the CIS when they bid for the championship, a figure that is included in the championship budget.

Dal Cin said Athletics is looking to break even this weekend, but any profit will be reinvested into hosting future CIS championships.

“We’re interested in an outdoor championship right now,” Dal Cin said. “That would be the next one we would go after.”

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