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Update: Huntsville City Council approved construction of the sand volleyball complex at the December 7 Council Meeting. 

It may be a stretch of the imagination to squint and see a chunk of land along Airport Road as some breezy, sunny Pacific beach.

But the evolution of John Hunt Park as a multi-sport mecca could continue with the addition of sand volleyball courts.

Pending the approval of the City Council, Huntsville Parks and Recreation will add a 12-court facility on the former site of the Becky Peirce Municipal Golf Course on the south side of Airport Road. The Council will be asked tonight to approve an agreement with Chorba Contracting Corporation on the $3.6 million project.

It’s nationwide and it’s taking off more and more.”

The courts will serve an active local community of players as well as enable Huntsville to serve as host for tournaments that will provide an economic impact to the area.

“We’re super excited about the new courts,” said Kristin Kennedy, an avid player and part of the Huntsville Volleyball Association. “We’ve already got the best facility in the Tennessee Valley at Brahan Spring and this is going to elevate us to No. 1 in a wider area.”

Currently, there are six beach volleyball courts at Brahan Spring Park “and we’ve got somebody on them all the time during the season,” said Steve Ivey, director of Huntsville Parks and Recreation.

“It’s nationwide and it’s taking off more and more,” Kennedy said of the sport. There are local leagues along with the recreational play, pick-up games or outings by churches and companies who use the courts.

The complex will be lighted (users pay fees to the City to use the courts at night) and irrigated to enable the sand to be dampened as needed. A building that includes a changing room/showers, restrooms and a concession stand will be built alongside the courts, as well as a 150 foot-by-30 foot pavilion, according to Chris O’Neil, Facilities Projects Manager for the City’s General Services Department.

General Services, which has designed the facility, met with members of the local volleyball community for input on needs and specifications, including plans for a special sand provided by USA Volleyball, the National Governing Body (NGB) for the sport of volleyball in the United States.

“To say the City has been great to work with would be an understatement,” Kennedy said. “It’s been wonderful to us.”

The relationship began more than a decade ago when the aging tennis courts at Brahan Spring were replaced by the beach volleyball courts. That sparked a growth in local play and, in turn, brought in out-of-town teams for tournament competition.

Beach volleyball on the rise

Beach volleyball has grown in interest through the Olympics. It’s the fastest-growing NCAA sport – UAB and Jacksonville State participate in intercollegiate play – and participant numbers have nearly doubled in a decade.

As Ivey noted, “We’ve been working on John Hunt Park the last four or five years, putting in the infrastructure and the roads, and now we’re starting on the facilities. People don’t see the power and the road work being done, but we’ve been preparing for these new facilities.”

There are six tennis courts to be added at the complex. The transition of the former golf course into a multi-purpose site has proven a success with its first cross-country meet held at John Hunt this fall. An announcement of a significant competition there is forthcoming.

Taking the extra step to include a shower/restroom/locker room facility at the volleyball court provides an extra amenity to lure other cross-country and volleyball events.