The first serve of the 2014 volleyball season signalled a new era for the sport in Southland yesterday, as the season got underway in the newly developed ILT Stadium Southland.
After three years of hosting volleyball competitions and tournaments in a wide array of halls throughout Invercargill and Southland, access to 10 wooden floor courts in the newly developed stadium is already seeing volleyball surge in popularity.
Sixty-two teams will compete across a variety of competitions this term - up from 38 teams this time last year; growth Volleyball Southland management say is down to hard work over the past 18 months, and the large number of courts now available in the new stadium.
Volleyball Southland regional development manager Donna Milne said she was excited by the potential the new stadium offered the sport and she was thrilled to see the 2014 season get started last night.
"We've really been building the momentum for the past 18 months," she said.
"Numbers have been steadily climbing and now that we are able to host all of our competitions under one roof on the same night each week - Wednesday - those numbers are just going to continue to grow."
"It just makes it so much easier for everyone. A lot of coaches or teachers who coach are now able to play on the same night, there's no change in venue, it's just going to be great!"
"People who used to play social volleyball in the old stadium, they're coming back and getting involved again and there's so much more we can do with the extra courts."
This term a number of competitions will be run, all on Wednesday nights at ILT Stadium Southland. Competitions range from Year 7 and 8 and Year 9 and 10 competitions, to senior secondary school divisions, through to social grades and a new elite threes competition, with more than 500 people involved across the grades each week.
Volleyball New Zealand executives, along with Invercargill City Council Mayor Tim Shadbolt (who had the honour of serving the first volleyball in the newly developed stadium), representatives from the Invercargill Licensing Trust, ILT Foundation, Community Trust of Southland, Secondary School Sports, ILT Stadium Southland, the Volleyball Southland board and a large number of players were on hand to see in the first night of volleyball in the new venue yesterday.
Milne said it was a new era for volleyball in Southland.
"Having 10 courts gives us so many opportunities for competitions, for training our representative players and for generating a really fun atmosphere every Wednesday that people want to keep coming back to," she said.
"It's great for the development of the sport in the south and I think volleyball has a very bright future here in Southland."
The social grade will stay open for new teams to come into the competition as the season progresses.
"We want to see this place full of volleyballers every Wednesday all year round," Milne said.
Volleyball New Zealand officials were in Invercargill to formally launch the season in the new venue, as well as check out ILT Stadium Southland, which will host the South Island Junior Secondary Schools Championships in November, alongside the beach component of the tournament which will be held in the SIT Zero Fees Velodrome.
- The Southland Times