Volleyball tournament showcases Wittenberg University, the city

Wittenberg University is serving as the host for a high school boys’ volleyball tournament that will bring dozens of student athletes to the area to vie for a state championship title.

It also will attract their family and friends, including those who may be visiting Springfield, Clark County and the university for the very first time.

“My guess is that this will be a lot of people’s first exposure to Springfield, and definitely to Wittenberg,” says Chris Schutte, vice president of destination marketing and communications for the Greater Springfield Partnership.

With so many high school students visiting for the tournament, the university can think of it as a recruiting tool, he says. What’s more, Springfield can use this introduction as a way to recruit visitors – and repeat visitors.

New visitors or not, the crowds also will drive spending in the community on items like food, gas and hotels, he says.

Events like the volleyball tournament also are a preview of what to expect if Springfield adds its own athletic event center, Schutte says. The city’s location and easy access to interstates could make it a popular spot and drive economic impact. Student athletes bring others such as parents, siblings and grandparents who also will patronize shops and restaurants.

Word also spreads quickly when events go well, and it is seen that a community has the facility, staff, parking and hotels to welcome youth sports teams. That puts Springfield on the map to host additional or even larger events.

“Any opportunity to get especially kids in here with their parents is fantastic,” Schutte says. “We’re thrilled that Wittenberg is starting to jump on these opportunities.”

The boys volleyball tournament will be the first state tournament in the sport held by the Ohio High School Athletic Association. Boys volleyball was added as an emerging sport by the OHSAA beginning this school year. According to the organization, the Ohio High School Boys Volleyball Association had held a tournament since 1988.

Wittenberg offers varsity men’s volleyball, and that was helpful in the university’s bid, says Bret Billhardt, Wittenberg’s senior associate athletic director.

“It’s not a new sport to us,” he says.

Semifinals for Division 1 and Division 2 games are scheduled to take place Saturday, May 27, with the championship games to be played the following day. The arena holds 3,000 spectators, and Billhardt expects there will be enough room for all who want to attend.

“The wildcard is how much Memorial Day will impact attendance,” he says.

Billhardt is happy to showcase a sport that many in the Clark County area may not know exists and to help grow the sport in Ohio.

Wittenberg also is trying to attract more events such as this. The university has hosted cheerleading competitions at the end of 2021 and 2022, and it is scheduled to host OHSAA lacrosse semifinal games just days after the boys volleyball tournament ends.

These types of events attract thousands of kids and their parents to Wittenberg and show them just what the school can offer, he says.

“Without that event, who knows if some of them would ever step foot here?” he says.

The university is focused on making the boys volleyball tournament a good experience for the eight teams, the 20 or so players on each roster and their families.

“We’re going to treat it like it’s the Wittenberg-Wooster men’s basketball game,” says Billhardt, referencing the athletic rivalry.

The university also occasionally hosts local high school athletic teams, after receiving requests to hold games and practices, Billhardt says. But it is exciting to host a tournament that brings in outside visitors.

“For the city, any time we can bring in an event like this, it’s only a good thing,” Billhardt says.

For tournament coverage, click here.
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Read more articles by Diane Erwin.

Diane Erwin is a freelance writer and former reporter for the Springfield News-Sun. A graduate of Ohio State University, her articles have appeared in a number of publications in Springfield and Dayton. In addition to her journalism background, she has worked in marketing and written copy for businesses throughout the country. In her spare time, she likes to read, dream about Schuler’s donuts, and travel near and far with her husband and two children.