Big-city teams join USPV
Rochester's Chill looks even littler
By Bob Brown
The United States Professional Volleyball League announced today the four teams it will add for the 2003 season. And if you thought the Rochester-based Minnesota Chill was the little franchise in the league last year, wait until you see the league's new franchises.
The four teams that are coming into the league will be based in Milwaukee, Dallas, Columbus (Ohio) and Philadelphia. They will join Rochester, Chicago, St. Louis and Grand Rapids (Mich.), the four cities that had teams in the USPV during its inaugural 2002 season.
Rochester, with a metropolitan population of about 100,000, is by far the smallest city in the league. The Grand Rapids area has a population of about 600,000. The other six cities are all over 1 million. The Chicago metro area is over 8 million, and the Dallas-Forth Worth area is over 5 million.
"The four new cities are an ideal fit on all our key criteria," said USPV President and CEO William J. Hawkins. "What ultimately separated these cities was the overwhelmingly positive response from both the volleyball and business communities."
Columbus, Dallas, Milwaukee and Philadelphia were chosen from a group of 17 potential expansion cities, which also included Omaha and Lincoln, Neb., and Madison, Wis.
The addition of four bigger cities is expected to help the USPV get national television exposure and more national sponsorship. The league will be in three of the top 10 media markets in the country. Chicago is No. 3, Philadelphia No. 4 and Dallas-Forth Worth No. 7.
The USPV reported it also picked Dallas because Texas is the No. 1 state in terms of volleyball participation at the high school and club level. The league reports that Columbus ranks in the top five nationally in participation.
Hawkins said the USPV is appealing in all markets.
"Our first season showed that our product is a hit not only in small markets like Rochester, but in big markets like Chicago as well," he said.
The Chill ranked second in attendance last season. They also won the USPV regular season and playoff championships.
All teams in the Chicago-based USPV will continue to be owned by the league, which has an eight-figure financial backing along with a seven-figure national sponsorship roster, led by Royal Neighbors of America Insurance Co.
Team nicknames, logos, colors, venues, practice facilities, athlete rosters, coaches, local front-office staff, the 2003 schedule and additional information on the expansion teams will be announced in the upcoming weeks.
The regular season schedule will increase from 18 to 20 matches per team in in the 2003 season, which will run from early January to May. Workouts are expected to begin in November. Last season started in early February.
The new eight-team league is expected to be split into two four-team conferences. There will be some air travel involved this year. Teams rode buses to all of their destinations last season.
The four expansion teams will draft players from the four existing teams, but how that will be done and how many players will be involved has yet to be decided by the USPV. The Chill are expected to lose four to six players from their championship team. Teams will also be stocked with some of the 109 athletes from seven countries and 63 NCAA Division I programs that recently took part in a USPV tryout camp.