Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial is set to host a girls volleyball tournament for the first time. The 2021 Flood City Challenge, hosted by Ridgetop Volleyball Club, will take place Saturday and Sunday at the historic arena.
“This is a very exciting event for Ridgetop VBC, as well as for the City of Johnstown,” said Jason Layman, president and founder of Ridgetop VBC. “This event will bring revenue to the city through restaurants and hotel venues as many teams are staying overnight two nights.
“The War Memorial has been very accommodating to us and extremely helpful in getting everything prepared for the event. My plan is for this event to be a yearly event and grow it bigger and better each year.”
Play begins at 8 a.m. each day, with a first wave to go from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., and a 3 to 8 p.m. session to cap off Saturday. Games start at 8 a.m. Sunday and run through 6 p.m. in the Gold and Silver playoff rounds.
The 16- and 18-Under teams are in the morning wave each day, with the 15- and 17-Under groups set to compete in the afternoon.
There will be eight teams in four different age brackets for a total of 32 squads. Teams are from throughout the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, with one club coming from West Virginia. Local squads Ridgetop VBC, Greater Johnstown Volleyball Club (Boswell) and Invasion will be involved. There is a 750-spectator limit for the arena. Admission is $20 for a two-day weekend adult pass and $15 for a single-day pass.
There will be discounted prices for students 12 and younger, and children 4 and younger are free.
“It is so exciting to see volleyball being played at 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial,” said Nicole Waligora, Visit Johnstown sports tourism program coordinator. “The arena is truly a special facility, and it is my hope that people continue to see the potential of this community asset. This tournament will not only become another great piece of arena history, but hopefully a springboard for the creation of more sports events in our community."
While many industries have been hit hard by the pandemic, tourism has taken its share of licks. Organizers believe this tournament will help kick-start things heading in the right direction.
“Although we have not run the numbers through an official economic impact calculator yet, I can say that the Flood City Challenge will easily generate tens of thousands of dollars of economic impact into our community,” Waligora said. “Visitors will patronize our hotels, restaurants, stores and many of our unique small businesses. I cannot over emphasize how events such as this one contribute to the vitality of our business community.”
With the tournament following Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) COVID-19 protocols, the city is eager to offer athletes a rare chance to compete.
“We appreciate the effort that the event organizers and arena staff have put in to ensure that an event of this caliber can take place, all while continuing to ensure the safety of the participants,” Waligora said. “We are also very happy that these young athletes will have the opportunity to compete after a year that brought many cancellations and disappointments.”
Organizers are prepared to keep everyone inside the arena safe.
“We will be following the current AAU COVID-19 guidelines for the event. Teams will not be switching sides, balls will be wiped down in between sets and hand-sanitizing stations will be available throughout the arena and on the courts,” Layman said. “It is mandatory for all spectators and coaches to be masked appropriately at all times during the event.
"Athletes are to be masked as well unless their team in actively participating in a match on the court. All coaches, athletes and spectators will be undergo a temperature check upon arrival into the arena.”
There will be four courts in use. A covering will be put over top the ice surface, with courts and nets being installed Friday.
With the arena celebrating its 70th anniversary, organizers hope this is the start of a new tradition at the same facility “Slap Shot” was filmed in.
“I do not believe there has been a volleyball event of this size at the War Memorial in its 70 years of existence,” Layman said. “So to bring something like this to the iconic War Memorial, is very special and exciting. There have been quite a few people who will be at the event with no affiliation to any team, other than they want to watch volleyball and it’s at the War Memorial.”