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Sand volleyball plans in Browns Park OKd

City leaders have given a green light to a plan that could make Spokane Valley a regional destination for sand volleyball players in the coming years.

The Spokane Valley City Council approved on Tuesday the Browns Park Master Plan that seeks to install 16 tournament-quality sand courts in the 8.2-acre park on the corner of South Pines Road and East 32nd Avenue. The plan would also renovate the existing neighborhood park facilities and add new play equipment, picnic shelters and a splash pad.

The existing sand courts in the southwest corner of the park would be converted into a basketball court, slackline course and a sand volleyball court for neighborhood use.

“In my mind, this park and this master plan signifies opportunities,” said Councilman Ben Wick, who added that research he has done indicates the venue could draw national tournaments within weeks. The business community, particularly the hotels and motels, are on board with the plan and excited at the tourism revenue a tournament could draw, Wick said.

The plan’s supporters have touted the economic boost that sand volleyball – a sport booming in popularity – could bring, and also the high demand for the existing four courts at the park.

The Evergreen Region Volleyball Association, a regional branch of USA Volleyball encompassing Eastern Washington, North Idaho and Montana, does not have the type of tournament-quality courts promised by the plan. Its commissioner, Meredith Coupland, said at a council meeting last month that leagues have had to turn members away and this summer instituted a waiting list.

“Court expansion for us is an important part of programming and growing the game,” Coupland told the council.

Council members agreed, though some remained cautious a tournament venue could conflict with neighborhood uses.

“I don’t want to make it impossible for our neighborhood to continue to have a neighborhood park by going in and putting in volleyball courts,” Councilman Chuck Hafner said.

But the plan shows the park’s area would be almost evenly portioned for volleyball and neighborhood activities: 3 acres would go for the new courts, 3 acres for the neighborhood improvements and the remaining 2 acres for parking. A new perimeter walking path would divide the two main uses, according to the plan’s sketches.

Under the plan, Browns Park would become a sand volleyball destination. In addition to the courts, the city seeks to form agreements with ERVA to maintain and expand parking spaces and the city would pursue an agreement with the ERVA to maintain the courts and give back a portion of revenue generated from court use to the city, said parks director Mike Stone.

Stone, who presented the master plan to the council, emphasized the proposal is simply a vision for the renovations; the courts could be years away from becoming reality. But with council’s approval, he said, he can now pursue funding opportunities and the agreement with the volleyball association.

The plan is estimated at $2 million, but Stone has said the cost could fluctuate as funding becomes available.

Stone said the plan is a direct answer to public input collected at a brainstorming session at University High School in March. The City Council also heard from more than a dozen residents – most of them supporters of the plan – during a public comment session.

Stone has said almost all feedback has been positive, and those involved in the discussion agree Spokane Valley would fill a great need for more courts. The improved neighborhood park facilities would also drive out reported vandalism and drug use, he said.

Before the unanimous approval, Deputy Mayor Arne Woodard said he wouldn’t mind adding even more courts in the future, if the park draws enough people. “I only regret one thing: that my body won’t allow me to do it anymore,” he joked.