A few months after a sand volleyball facility debuted in Ozark, its owners have completed the installation of a dome that allows it to become a year-round attraction.
Volleyball Beach Ozark co-owner Michael Sylvara said roughly $1 million was invested to install a dome made of composite fabric over the 40,000-square-foot facility. Air blowers continuously pump air into the structure to create the pressure necessary to keep the fabric material inflated. He said the dome took 12 days to erect, and it allows the facility to remain in use during the winter and stay at a comfortable 70 degrees when occupied.
It’s part of a $5 million investment for Volleyball Beach Ozark’s owners, which includes husband and wife Andrew and Madisen Bettlach. Sylvara and Madisen Bettlach are siblings. The trio also plan to add a bar and grill at the 1198 W. State Highway NN facility.
“We don’t have the bar and grill completely finished. It’s about 90% done right now,” Sylvara said, noting it should open within the next month or so, depending on permit approvals. “During the summer, it was only about 10%-20% done. But we had the plan that we could get the courts finished and start having people on the site, getting them in the habit of coming out and playing beach volleyball because it’s so new to the area.”
The facility’s 10 courts opened to tournaments and leagues in June, Sylvara said. Roughly 15 teams were playing in leagues several nights a week during the summer, while weekend tournaments had 10-40 teams. Volleyball Beach Ozark is already drawing teams from outside southwest Missouri, he said, with participants coming from areas such as Kansas City, St. Louis, Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Fayetteville, Arkansas.
He said Jefferson City-based Capital Sand Co. supplied around 2,400 tons of sand – the equivalent of nearly 100 dump truck loads – for Volleyball Beach Ozark.
The business is patterned after Volleyball Beach Kansas City, an eight-court venue where Sylvara and his sister started playing around 10 years ago. That planted a seed of interest in beach volleyball for the siblings. The inspiration to launch a year-round indoor beach volleyball facility came after the Kansas City facility added a dome in 2015, he said.
“I made a decision there that I wanted to get out of real estate full time and own and operate a beach volleyball facility,” he said. “I moved down here to basically create the business.”
Sylvara, who now lives in Ozark, continues to work as a real estate agent for a Kansas City area office of ReeceNichols Real Estate, but said he is putting his primary focus into developing Volleyball Beach Ozark.
The Bettlachs are no strangers to business ownership, as Andrew Bettlach owns the Hollister, Kimberling City, Nixa and Republic Road stores of Harter House Supermarket, Sylvara said. The grocery chain was founded by Bettlach’s grandparents.
Additionally, the Bettlachs own lodging facility Mill Creek Resort on Table Rock Lake in Lampe.
The owners purchased 6 acres on Highway NN in September 2019, and Sylvara said they were set to close on it in March 2020. But when the coronavirus pandemic took hold, the transaction was delayed for a few months, he added.
“The pandemic put us back probably a year,” he said. “We were just trying to inch forward up until this point.”
Sylvara said there are no other indoor beach volleyball facilities in southwest Missouri. As a result, he said Volleyball Beach Ozark hosts practices for several youth-oriented volleyball clubs.
One of those clubs, Malosi Sand Academy, started in May 2020 to focus solely on beach volleyball. Owner and coach April Stapp said the academy had nearly 100 active female players over the summer participate at Volleyball Beach Ozark-hosted tournaments. The academy is open to ages 12-18.
“This will be the first year we’re able to do all year long,” she said, adding the academy’s first practice for the fall season was Nov. 1. “So, I’m super excited.”
She anticipates the academy player count could expand to 150 by next year, based on the growth from this summer, which almost tripled the first-year total.
While prices vary depending on team size, Sylvara said the weekend tournaments typically cost teams $25-$50 per player. League play runs five nights a week for eight weeks, with recreational, competitive and power levels of play, according to Volleyball Beach Ozark’s website. Costs range $120-$300 per team.
Youth volleyball clubs aren’t the only ones making use of the beach. The women’s beach volleyball team for Missouri State University is also practicing at the Ozark facility. Sylvara said he’s been in discussions with university officials about hosting some of the team’s games next season, which starts in the spring. He said no decision has been made, adding the NCAA also must give approval to allow any venue changes.
MSU’s beach volleyball program, which began in 2018, is part of a nationally growing sport. It currently is one of 64 NCAA Division I beach volleyball teams and the lone program in southwest Missouri, according to the American Volleyball Coaches Association. The number of Division I teams has grown from 15 over a decade ago and there are 173 college beach teams overall, according to AVCA data.
Greg Williams, Ozark Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, said while a beach volleyball facility might not typically be defined as tourism, he expects it will attract a new audience from beyond the Springfield area.
“Visitors, residents don’t really see much need to stay within corporate city limits. They don’t see city boundaries,” he said. “This facility will certainly draw directly out of Springfield, for both the leisure player as well as the league play events. It’s going to be a tremendous draw throughout the southwest Missouri region.”
Part of that draw will be food and drink, Sylvara said, noting Volleyball Beach Ozark will feature a full bar with a Key West theme and menu items such as burgers, chicken, salmon, pizza, wraps, sandwiches and rice bowls. The bar will have six beers on tap, as well as fruit and protein smoothies.
Sylvara said the bar and grill component is intended as an attraction for the public, regardless of their interest in volleyball.
“That is part of the community aspect of the facility,” he said. “The vision is to have it be a family destination for all of 417 to come in and have a place. They don’t have to come out and play volleyball; they can just come out and hang with their friends.”
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