Organizers pleased with hosting debut

National tournament breaks ARC attendance record twice in a row

KINGSTON, Ont. (03/03/2012) - The Queen's Gaels fans at the 2012 CIS Men's Volleyball Championship Semifinals - Queen's Gaels vs. Trinity Western Spartans.
KINGSTON, Ont. (03/03/2012) - The Queen's Gaels fans at the 2012 CIS Men's Volleyball Championship Semifinals - Queen's Gaels vs. Trinity Western Spartans.
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Photo: 
KINGSTON, Ont. (04/03/2012) - Player of the match Joren Zeeman contemplates losing to the Bisons at the 2012 CIS Men's Volleyball Championship Bronze Medal Game - Queen's Gaels vs. Manitoba Bisons
KINGSTON, Ont. (04/03/2012) - Player of the match Joren Zeeman contemplates losing to the Bisons at the 2012 CIS Men's Volleyball Championship Bronze Medal Game - Queen's Gaels vs. Manitoba Bisons
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The Spartans celebrate after winning their second straight national championship.
The Spartans celebrate after winning their second straight national championship.
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Queen's Gaels Head Coach Brenda Willis.
Queen's Gaels Head Coach Brenda Willis.
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Queen’s Athletics had to turn fans away from the men’s volleyball team’s CIS semifinal on Saturday night.

“We were sold out,” Athletics Director Leslie Dal Cin said. “We haven’t ever had to turn people away from an event before.”

A total of 1,994 people packed the ARC to watch the Gaels fall to the eventual champions — the Trinity Western Spartans — on Saturday night. It was the largest crowd of the three-day, 11-game tournament that saw over 6,100 fans in the stands.

“Last week, I said we would consider the tournament a success if players had a good time, the fans had a great event, and we made one dollar,” Dal Cin said. “I think we’re going to be able to check, check, check to all three of those things.”

The CIS championship was the the ARC’s first major tournament since the $230-million facility opened in December 2009. The Spartans beat the Laval Rouge et Or in the final match to take gold at the tournament.

Queen’s took fourth after losing both its semifinal match against the Spartans and its bronze medal match against the Manitoba Bisons.

“We have had so many positive reactions about it being a first-class event,” Dal Cin said. “Comments were that our people were friendly, the building was great, the tournament was great.”

Queen’s officially won hosting rights to the tournament in June 2009. At the time, Athletics predicted they would need $137,150 in revenue to break even, but Dal Cin said that amount dropped after securing corporate sponsorship.

Before the tournament, Dal Cin said Athletics needed $60,000 in ticket revenue to break even — budget details won’t be released for two weeks, but she said she thinks they will be “within hundreds of dollars of the figure.

“There are some additional resources that we put on the tournament … for example, we arranged to have more cleaning done in the building because of the volume of people we sensed were coming,” Dal Cin said. “Things like that will have a little impact on the budget, but I think we’re in very good shape.”

Queen’s women’s soccer players were hostesses for the visiting teams all weekend, acting as a link between organizers and athletes, providing post-game food and drinks and dealing with any logistical or communications concerns.

Dal Cin said the Laval Rouge et Or were particularly happy Queen’s could provide bilingual hostesses.

“We received a really nice email from the Laval team just thanking us for the attention we put into offering services in both languages,” she said.

According to Dal Cin, the tournament was particularly smooth because the organizing committee got to carry out a practice run in October, when Queen’s hosted the Coast-to-Coast Classic, a pre-season tournament that featured men’s volleyball teams from across the country.

“We really had a logistical understanding of the tournament behind the scenes,” she said. “The organizing committee made some adjustments … there was nothing we can point to and say ‘we should have tried it this way.’”

The Laval Rouge et Or and the Calgary Dinos opened the tournament on Friday afternoon to a packed house, largely thanks to over 1,200 local elementary students in the crowd.

Dal Cin said the turnout was a result of a partnership between Athletics and local school principals that saw the men’s and women’s volleyball teams run volleyball clinics for students over the past year.

“When we did our original estimates, we thought we’d have 600 students, but we had 1,250,” she said. “They just set the tone for the tournament.”

Rouge et Or coach Pascal Clément said he was surprised to play an afternoon first-round match in front of such a large crowd.

“We’ve played the first match for the last three years, and it’s not easy to play when there’s nobody there,” he said. “I’m sure we’re going to think about this when we host [the CIS championship in 2013].”

Manitoba Bisons coach Garth Pischke, at his 26th national tournament, said the ARC’s gym is “absolutely perfect for volleyball,” while Spartans coach Ben Josephson said he was impressed by the crowd.

“That was awesome,” Josephson said after watching Queen’s beat the Alberta Golden Bears on Friday night. “This crowd was as good as our crowd was last year [when the Spartans hosted the tournament], if not better.”

But not everybody loved the crowd — Alberta outside hitter and Ontario native Taylor Hunt, a target of the home crowd’s abuse on Friday night, was surprised when he stepped up to serve against the Gaels.

“I looked over and saw my high school friends chanting ‘Taylor sucks,’” he said. “Kind of unfortunate.”

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