For six hours Saturday, Dufur High will be the Mecca of district volleyball.
In a meeting between athletic directors representing the Big Sky Conference earlier this year, a major change occurred where the district volleyball tournaments would be held at home facilities to keep things local and more cost- efficient.
South Wasco athletic director Jim Hull said that after operating the district volleyball tournament at a loss for the last few years, something had to change.
“I think it was a very innovative idea to have the Big Sky Volleyball tournament be held at home sites,” Hull said. “For example, in years past, we have traveled to Umatilla and Hermiston a good 2 and a half hour trip one way. This year, it’s only a 30-minute drive, almost a home game for us.”
In the early 2000s before 2007, the district was in Sherman when they were 2A. From 2007-2011 it was at Umatilla and 2012 it was at Hermiston.
The plan is for the tournament to move year-to-year with any school that has the facilities to host an event, bidding for it.
“Our intent is to raise money for the district,” said Dufur athletic director Jack Henderson. “We plan to further develop the Big Sky scholarship fund that we have regenerated here in the last few years. We want to contribute more money to the kids here.”
Money raised through concessions and memorabilia will go to the host school’s athletic fund, and entry fees raised are used to pay for officials and other costs and a percentage is contributed to the scholarship program, where every year, one male and one female athlete from a Big Sky school participating in any sport, submit an application for approval.
Normally, the scholarship is for $500, but with the venue changes, Henderson hopes that the numbers boosts as high as possible.
“The more money we have available from the Big Sky Conference, the more money we can contribute to the scholarship,” Henderson said.
All of the formats remain the same, where teams on the East side of the bracket play the West.
The top-3 teams earn state play-in matches.
Warm-up sessions and practices will be held in the upper gymnasium and all tournament matches will be played in the lower gym.
With things being centrally located, a concern is whether there is enough seating to satisfy fan bases.
Dufur’s gym holds roughly 400-500, and there will be added seating on the stage and in surrounding areas across the court.
“We think our gym has enough to facilitate all of the potential spectators,” Henderson said. “Our bleachers can hold upwards of 500.”
On a side note, the 1A basketball tournament will continue in Umatilla, because title games attract a couple of thousand people.
Currently, no facility in the conference would be able to accommodate those numbers.
“Otherwise, we probably would seek to do it the same way,” Henderson said. “For whatever reason, volleyball has attracted fewer fans than basketball does. It makes it a doable thing with volleyball.”
Henderson, with the help of dedicated volunteers and other athletic directors, will take a test drive with this volleyball venture.
He is excited to have one volleyball team hoist a district championship trophy in his home gym.
“We feel that a smaller venue would provide more of a championship environment, a better environment for the girls in the Big Sky to participate in,” Henderson said.
First match is at 10 a.m. and the other matches begin 30 minutes following.
Admission for Saturday is $6 for adults and $4 for students.