The Real Votes Show Up

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By John Brannon, Club Director, Carolina Union VBC

In the last blog we had found the location for our facility and next it was only a matter of start-up funding coming together. Initially, we had been working with a couple of capital investment companies, as well as one or two potentially big private investors. But the private investors' primary interest was in real estate (minimum $2 million project), and when we got our quote back from the capital investment companies, the terms were prohibitive from a business perspective (no early payoff allowed, basically end up paying double for all of the equipment when all was said and done).

At that point, I had given up the ghost a little bit and decided this would be a next year project; all the plans were ready, but without the money to make it happen there isn't much that can be done. But then something funny happened in a single week's time; while at high school volleyball matches and being in the community, talking about our situation, people started to ask about investing $10k, $20k, as much as $40k in the project. So in a single week I went from giving up on the idea to having almost $100k of investment promised if I signed the lease!

Two weeks later... the lease was signed, and the conversion began! The real nerve-racking question was whether or not this would be a field of dreams experience or not! Only tryouts would tell the real story.

Tryouts are now finished and the new location is turning out to be a huge draw. From last year to this year, our tryout numbers grew from 230 players to 291 players (over a 25% increase). Best of all, we are getting new talent in the gym from parts of South Carolina and North Charlotte, places that we had pulled from previously but in very small numbers. We will have 16 teams this year (2-13s, 3-14s, 4-15s, 3-16s, 2-17s, 2-18s), and the only thing stopping us from having more is that we will likely not be in our new facility for the first couple of weeks. As I've told people, the only thing worse than not being able to offer enough teams for players that are good enough to be on a team is offering teams and not having enough space! To the facility itself, we are currently going through "change of use" reviews with the city. As is often the case with government programs, we are delayed a little bit! My best advice for anyone that will go through this process is to make sure to ask multiple people in the same department the same question. For the first three weeks after we signed our lease we were operating under a couple of key assumptions because of what two individuals downtown had told us...came to find out that they were wrong, not just in interpretation, but on the existence of certain regulatory rules in general. So don't worry about upsetting people because you keep asking the same questions or ask a bunch of people the same question. It's better to get all of the correct information in the first shot than to be delayed a month!

All-in-all, the excitement around the club and the volleyball community as a whole is palpable. We're excited about our future and growth of volleyball in the Charlotte area!


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