Volleyball academy in Miami Beach needs a better place to play

p>Volleyball has been identified with Miami Beach since the 1930s, when Beach High won a state championship. Pro events are often held there, the girls' Junior Olympics took place on South Beach last year, and a new version of the game, footvolley, was recently invented on SoBe's sands.

So why in Misty May Treanor's name can't Miami Beach help Carlos Jimenez's volleyball academy? Jimenez, a coach and director on the Extreme Volleyball Professionals tour, has trained about 1,000 players — adults and children — since coming to town in 2006.

He started at the Scott Rakow Center on Dade Boulevard, where an indoor sand court was perfect. Then, last spring, the city began remodeling the facility, and the academy had to move out. The hard-swinging players headed to the beat-up courts near the North Beach Bandshell. Roxana Morales, a volleyballer, lent Jimenez a generator, which was jury-rigged with some lights.

That worked fine for a while. Then came winter. "It's already dark at 6 when the classes start," complains Viviana Tenenbaum, who's been playing since high school. "And the light isn't right. We have had guys who had to quit because they couldn't see the ball."

So the players began approaching Miami Beach officials to offer sensible solutions. Maybe add lights to courts a few blocks north at 76th Street. Environmental regulators had already approved them — and the nearby parking lot is already lit. Or perhaps rarely used tennis courts on Normandy Isle or in North Shore Park could be converted. Jimenez had supervised such conversions in the past.

The answer at first: "You could buy lights." But they cost about $20,000. "That was just too much money for our small group," Tenenbaum says.

Ben Torter, an assistant to Commissioner Ed Tobin, spoke with parks director Kevin Smith about it. But nothing happened. So the women circulated a petition. They gathered more than 100 signatures.

Recently, they received responses from Commissioner Jerry Libbin and Kathie Brooks, director of the Office of Budget and Performance Improvement. The city is pondering it, but strapped budgets will make approval difficult.

"The point is that there are parks in the area that have lights," says Morales. "We will pay for sand, poles, and a net, but we just need a space."

 
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