The omicron variant does not appear to be slowing down amateur sports events, including a major indoor volleyball tournament that will begin this weekend in Hartford, Connecticut. An estimated 5,700 youth volleyball players from 521 teams are expected to compete over the next three weekends at the 2022 Smack New England Winterfest Volleyball Tournament at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford.
More than 20,000 visitors are expected over the three weekends through the tournament’s conclusion on January 23, including players, family members, tournament officials, college coaches and spectators. Teams will compete on 28 courts in the convention center’s exhibit halls with 12 matches per court most days, each lasting about one hour.
According to the tournament’s website, all attendees will be required to wear masks inside the convention center unless they are actively eating or drinking. Athletes competing on a court will be exempt from the mask requirement, although coaches and officials are encouraged to wear masks.
The tournament’s first weekend will see nearly 1,000 athletes consisting of 16-year-old girls and six age divisions of boys ages 14–18. Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend will be the tournament’s busiest, with more than 2,500 girls ages 16–18 competing. The final weekend will see more than 2,000 girls on 204 teams, ages 12–18.
“We expanded the tournament this year to three weekends,” said Roxann Link, junior commissioner of the New England Region Volleyball Association, Inc. (NERVA). “It is an exciting spectator event where families come to cheer on their volleyball-playing daughters and sons. Since the Northeast has one of the largest concentrations of Collegiate Division II and Division III schools in the nation, with lots of NAIA schools here as well, we expect many college recruiting coordinators to come and scout the athletes.”
“This annual tournament kicks the year off with a great economic boost for the Greater Hartford region,” said Robert Murdock, president of the Connecticut Convention & Sports Bureau (CTmeetings). “The popular event is expected to generate approximately $6.61 million in revenue over its three weekends as visitors stay in over 25 area hotels, dine in local restaurants, shop and enjoy nearby attractions.”
CTmeetings expects the event to support 2,197 jobs in the region’s hospitality industry with $445,030 in Connecticut sales tax generated.