Sixty girls are missing out on a chance to play competitive sand volleyball this summer and the league’s organizer says it’s his homeowners association’s fault.
Tristan Moreland has been in charge of the Ahwatukee Thunder Beach Volleyball League for three summers. Each year girls ages 8 to 15 play sand volleyball on the Club West courts for about four hours once a week for eight to nine weeks.
Last year, Moreland was asked by the Club West Homeowners Association not to return to the facility this year. After reconsidering the item last month they are standing by that decision.
“We went on for three years doing this and for no reason the association shut us down,” Moreland said. “I have a three-year chain of emails where they said everything was fine to do and then one or two people got on their power house and decided to deny the girls.”
Moreland says the emails he has are from the community’s former community manager, Brenda Brunette. He was asked at one point years ago by the board to get insurance, which he did, and he was told as long as he had the insurance policy he was OK to use the HOA’s courts, since he is a member of the HOA himself and several of the girls in the league are from the neighborhood. Now the board has reconsidered and has asked Moreland to take his league elsewhere.
“Desert Foothills Park is just down the street and they have lighted courts and the park is really better equipped to deal with that kind of activity than our little park,” said Mike Hinz, a board member at Club West. “It’s a rather large club with somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 girls. Our feeling is we’re just not in a position to support that kind of use. It’s a club. It’s formal. He has dues and shirts. It’s really not an appropriate use of our little private park. Our park is owned only by the HOA and is designed for the casual use of the neighborhood.”
Though there are other parks with sand volleyball courts nearby, Moreland says those courts are not as nice as the Club West courts and really aren’t suitable for young girls to learn to play on.
“The sand, 2 inches down, is hard dirt and rock,” Moreland said. “It may be OK for a 35 year old, but for an 8 or 9 year old trying to learn and play competitive volleyball it’s just not suitable. We’ve tried to work on the facilities but the city just doesn’t have the money to invest.”
Moreland said his club has always been willing to give up a court if a Club West homeowner showed up and wanted to use it, but that has never happened in the three years they’ve been using them. He has also offered to rent the courts for a fee, but his request was denied.
The league was started at the request of parents. Sand volleyball recently became a sanctioned high school sport, but the only other leagues in Arizona are a great distance away from Ahwatukee and Chandler. The league grew by word of mouth and Moreland said in the past few years he has had about 64 girls playing and a waiting list of more girls ready to play.
“The league at Club West was great because it was inexpensive, local, and always a fun Friday night of families getting together,” said Susan Dittmar, a Club West HOA member and mother whose daughter has played in the league. “A few of the parents are volleyball coaches and often you would see them getting out and working with the girls … I am quite upset that Club West HOA has chosen to ban the league because they seem to have made their decision without knowing the facts… In their defense, there were a couple members who listened and seemed willing to revisit it. But it is too late to get it together for this season.”
Dittmar said her girls will continue to play club volleyball at indoor facilities nearby, but they’ll miss playing sand volleyball. Many of the parents in the group hope the HOA will reconsider next year.
“Our position is it’s really just a casual park and we feel that kind of use is better suited for a public park,” Hinz said. “We just can’t support it properly.”
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