Pro beach volleyball

Why you’ll see PVB on the beach this summer

PVB Enterprises runs Canada’s largest independent beach volleyball camps. When one of owner and former national team member Mark Reilly’s club players, Taylor Ivey, and her parents Charlie and Katrine invited him to Grand Bend, an idea was born.
Reilly proposed developing a program in Grand Bend similar to the one he started in 1999 at Ashbridge’s Bay in Toronto. With plans to operate youth and adult camps and tournaments on the town’s north beach, Reilly and PVB approached Lambton Shores council in October 2009 and entered into a contract March 29, 2010 to run 15 courts for ten summers for $1500 per year.
Residents were informed April 5, and expressed to Reilly and the Iveys at a PVB-hosted meeting May 1 that they disapproved of the project and wanted it stopped.
While council supports the project, contractual problems (discussed on page 4 of this edition) led Lambton Shores to give PVB the 60 days notice required to void the contract. Council decided Monday night to renegotiate, and the matter is before lawyers. The Grand Bend Strip spoke with Mark Reilly Sunday night, ahead of the meeting, to see what he’d like to see now.

Photo by Casey Lessard
Assisted by Alicia Adamski and Sarah Laws

Interview by Casey Lessard

Grand Bend, Ontario - Mark Reilly of PVB volleyball.
Grand Bend is not your first venue for this project.
We started in Ashbridge’s Bay in 1999. We had six kids in my first camp, and now we have more than 200. The relationship through Not So Pro was to develop youth programming, and when I was developing that, my friend who played against me on the national team, Mike Slean, noticed the business and offered to set up the business in Pickering. That was the first time we set up a model outside of Ashbridge’s Bay. Over the years, as we started developing, the Iveys came into my life with their daughter Taylor, who plays on my club team. They invited me up to Grand Bend and I saw the venue and facility, and thought this was a great pocket to start a new program.

Some changes to your original contract have been made as of Friday. What is the status?
Following the May 1 meeting we had with the community, we realized and were sensitive to many of the residents’ concerns. We’ve scaled back the contract and nothing has been signed yet, but we’ve had discussions with the municipality on how we could change a few clauses. Essentially adapt the contract to better suit the needs of the community and the municipality. We realize that the nature of the contract will demand an exceptional relationship with the municipality.

Here are some quick facts about the program: the original contract pitched 15 courts on the north beach for 10 years at $1500 per year; basically 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week for 15 weeks. What is the new agreement you’ve come up with the town?
We’ve scaled back the number of courts from 15 to 10 in year one. We’ve cut out all of the adult programming, all of the liquor licences and the idea of running tournaments where liquor would be involved for year one. We’ve entered a profit sharing agreement with the municipality where registration that comes through on the tournament side would result in revenue for the municipality. We’ve taken all of their concerns and digested them and came up with a proposal we believe will be suitable to the municipality and the residents.

Is the time length pretty similar?
We’ve scaled things back big time. We’re trying to show the residents and the municipality that we are listening and we’re hoping the residents will be sensitive to the changes and aware that the changes were made on behalf of them.
The courts are not being used nearly as much as it appears. In terms of the beach being used 24/7 by the beach volleyball courts, that’s not even close to a true equation. We have three child youth camps in place that are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays, and that’s for a total of three weeks. We’re running three OVA youth tournaments; we cancelled our first tournament in June.

One big change is the venue.
Yeah, the venue is now being changed to the main beach. For us, it’s equally exciting. Each beach has its advantages, but the main beach, we’re very happy to be there.

Would you consider other venues?
The program needs to exist and function out of the Grand Bend beach. The beach is the lifeline to the success of the program. Tourists and volleyball clientele want to be on the beach and experiencing beach volleyball on the beach in front of the water. Grand Bend presents an exceptional beach to do that on.

A lot of people remarked on the dollar figure for the original deal. What is the situation now?
The municipality will be making more money now, but it’s a win-win. What will end up happening in the new deal, the town will make more money with more programming. Should we be offered more tournament time, the municipality and businesses will make more money. Should they decide to lighten the tournament load, they end up getting less revenue. They want more money, they’re getting more money. But with that, we have to have more tournaments.

What is your vision for beach volleyball in Grand Bend?
We’re going to take slow steps and see what the market yields. If you do your research, some of your top volleyball players, including the top male and top female, came from the London and Kitchener-Waterloo areas. Western Ontario has a great volleyball history, and that history will get better. You’ll start to see beach volleyball athletes develop. Athletes simply don’t want to travel to Toronto and Cobourg, so our hope is a lot of families will see an opportunity to stay close to home and invest their time and energy in Grand Bend.

What’s your reaction to the way the community reacted to your proposal?
You have a generational gap who don’t understand the demands that young children are faced with and the many routes young children and adults can take these days. They don’t get the PlayStations and all the other distractions life presents for these families and young kids. I’m sensitive to that. I’m not calling them naïve. I’m calling them unfamiliar with the environment kids are dealing with.
At the same time, I’m completely aware and sensitive to these families who are craving more for their children. This program, without a doubt, is going to give the community a healthy, athletic focus. There are many residents, older and younger, who are afraid to speak. The way the other side presented their case, it was quite bluntly very aggressive. Any time people are afraid to speak, you have a problem. People should be able to speak openly and voice their opinions, and that certainly was not the case with this item. A lot of misinformation was dealt initially, and that bred anger and created a revolt against the project. As a citizen, I don’t agree with that.

I understand you have received some threats. Do you have any safety concerns?
I don’t. I think there will be a lot of focus and attention dealt toward volleyball and I think it’s a good thing. People are going to quickly realize this is a good, sound project, and we’re doing a good thing for the community. People involved in the project are going to take a lot of pride in the program, what we’re doing. I’m not concerned about safety at this point. We’ve addressed some of the safety issues, and we made it very clear that we’re going to be watching very carefully for outsiders who are not in support of the program.

There have been suggestions that because of your relationship to Charlie Ivey, who is related to former mayor Cam Ivey, that some favour was curried here. Has your affiliation with the Iveys led to any special treatment at council?
For anyone who wants to know how the volleyball business works, this has been the most taxing volleyball project I’ve ever been attached to. For anyone who thinks this has been an easy journey and that the Iveys have helped streamline this process and make it easy for us to get a contract, they’re sadly mistaken. Of every deal I’ve ever put together – with literally 20 or 30 companies or municipalities – this has been an extremely detailed process. Charlie has been a mentor to me, but in no way, shape or form has the Ivey name taken this deal through the pipes easily.

How do you heal the gap between your company, which wants to be here, and the people who are already here, especially the group led by Ed Fluter? What steps can you and they take to heal that rift?
I think they have to understand that there is a generation looking for more. We’re very grateful and thankful to be on the beach. We plan on working through a program model that is respectful to the community. If they plan to continue to slam the program and ruin the program, if that’s how they want to spend their lives and create their legacy in Grand Bend, that’s their path. If that’s the path they want to take, no one can stop them. But I’ll tell you that they’ll be upsetting a lot of families if it continues.

What is Grand Bend missing if it decides not to do this?
It’s a watershed moment. In the community of Grand Bend, we’ve had countless people email us to say they’re scared and are starving for a program like this. There’s a group of people that yields a lot of power and they do it in ways like mobbing. That’s what this was. They created misinformation and have managed to get a whole lot of people angry.

What if you aren’t here? What will you do?
I’ll continue on. I’m a passionate guy who’s involved in a game that’s done a lot for me. I don’t plan on ever stopping my volleyball journey. The sport has done wonderful things for my life and I feel I’m a disciple of the game.
If we need to go an alternative route, we will. But my hope is we don’t have to go down that road. I’m really confident that Grand Bend is the right spot to be.