Anaheim Council Approves Contract With USA Volleyball Despite Mayor’s Objections

The United States women's national team playing in a tournament in Anaheim. (Photo credit: Jay Metzger/USA Volleyball)

The United States women's national team playing in a tournament in Anaheim. (Photo credit: Jay Metzger/USA Volleyball)

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The home base of the U.S. National Volleyball teams will remain in Anaheim for at least the next several years as the City Council voted Tuesday night to approve a four-year agreement with Visit Anaheim and USA Volleyball worth $1.53 million in cash subsidies and rent discounts.

The contract — which passed on a 3-2 vote with Mayor Tom Tait and Councilman James Vanderbilt voting no — requires USA Volleyball to hold four championship events in Anaheim, host annual volleyball clinics for Anaheim youth, and appear at civic functions up to 20 times a year.

Visit Anaheim, which promotes business in the Anaheim resort district, will manage the relationship between the city and USA Volleyball. The $1.3 million included in contract would also pay for advertising and promotional opportunities for the city on the team’s website, and 30-second commercials for Anaheim during some television broadcasts of both men’s and women’s national team matches.

Anaheim’s decade-long distinction as the host city of USA Volleyball was briefly in question after Tait raised questions at a council meeting in August about whether the city should sponsor a national sports team when that money could go toward services for residents, such as youth sports programs.

That prompted USA Volleyball chairman Lori Okimura to tell The Orange County Register last week that the team would move out the national teams as well as its 2020 championship event out of Anaheim if the deal wasn’t signed.

“Anaheim is now known (globally) as more than just the place where Disneyland is,” Okimura told the Register. “It’s known for volleyball and that stands to be lost if the national teams don’t stay.”

Tait, an outspoken critic in recent years of city subsidies for private purposes, voiced his skepticism Tuesday of whether Southern California Volleyball Association and other groups, as well as volleyball tournaments held at the Anaheim Convention Center, would all uproot and follow the national teams out of Anaheim.

“Everything is a choice…and we have to decide what our priorities are,” said Tait. “My job is primarily to look after the interests of the residents, to provide sporting opportunities for them and facilities where they can become future Olympians themselves.”

Meanwhile, members of the council majority, said the tax dollars spent on USA Volleyball come back to the city through contributions to the community and tax dollars generated from new volleyball events and organizations that have followed the team to Anaheim.

“It’s not a subsidy, it’s been an investment that’s had a return, not just in terms of direct dollars but…in commitments to our schools, particularly to at-risk youth,” said Councilwoman Kris Murray.

Karch Kiraly, the coach of the national women’s team, which won a bronze medal in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, highlighted the team’s work in the Starlings program, where players help coach underprivileged girls who can’t afford club volleyball fees.

“It’s a real focus of ours to have some of the best players in the world coaching some of the fine young girls of Anaheim, and being mentors to them,” Kiraly said. “They are a tremendous role model for our kids.”

Although the men’s team has trained in Anaheim since 2006, and the women’s team since 2009, the contract approved Tuesday is the first that has required USA Volleyball to host events in Anaheim.

The city claims in a staff report that those events will generate more than 21,000 new visitors and $652,000 in new hotel tax revenue.

The city would also have the “the right of first negotiation” for the boys and girls junior national volleyball championships from 2021 to 2024, which city officials claim could generate $3.9 million in tax revenue, should the city be selected to host the events.

The city has spent, on average, $351,331 a year on its contract with USA Volleyball. The new contract, which includes a $325,000 annual cash payment, would actually save the city money, according to the staff report.

The deal also includes a 50 percent discount on rent for training space (worth up to $150,000 over the four-year term), and up to $82,000 in rent discounts for the 2020 USA Volleyball Open National Championships, to be held at the Anaheim Convention Center.

Some residents questioned why the same investment has not gone toward youth sports, after-school programs and city parks and recreational facilities.

“It’s a hassle just for my own son to play basketball. He’s on the waiting list – for the city I coach in – for YMCA basketball because we need more gyms,” said Alfonso Rodriguez, who has coached at Anaheim High School.

Anaheim Union High School District trustee Al Jabbar suggested the city fund the program through private sponsorships, and instead invest in youth sports programs.

“I’d like to see [the city] ask some of the businesses who received tax subsidies in the past, to come out and support a program like this,” Jabbar said. “Maybe we could consider investing that money into…a partnership between the city and the schools to fund sports – we could make it onto the map that way too.”

Murray rejected the argument that the contract with USA Volleyball takes money away from other programs.

“Pitting USA Volleyball against at-risk youth programs is a mischaracterization and a falsehood,” said Murray. “This isn’t about whether we continue to do all that, or fund this program — this would generate even more revenue without having to go to residents on taxes and fees,”

The $1.3 million cash subsidy would come out of the Convention, Sports and Entertainment enterprise fund.

Although revenue typically flows back into the fund to pay for the operation of the Convention Center, Angel Stadium and the Honda Center, the money in question is not dedicated and could be spent on other purposes, according Tom Morton, executive director of the Convention, Sports and Entertainment department.

Tait said staff’s estimates of the economic benefits of the program – and the potential downsides if USA Volleyball decides to relocate – were based on questionable calculations.

“What if these people stay at one of the new subsidized hotels? There are a lot of assumptions we have [to make] to get to that $650,000” in revenue, Tait said.

“We charge little leagues and basketball leagues and soccer leagues for use of our fields…it seems backwards, that we charge our kids for the sports most can’t afford, and yet we are subsidizing USA Volleyball,” Tait added.

Councilwoman Lucille Kring said Tait was suggesting the city turn down all the benefits associated with hosting the national volleyball teams based on a false premise – that the city could not do both at once.

“This is such a win-win-win, I can’t believe we spent an hour on this,” Kring said.

Contact Thy Vo at or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.

  • LFOldTimer

    Anaheim agreed to turn over $7M (or more) to the county as a construction payment for the new dog shelter in Tustin yet won’t have a dime of equity in the shelter – and the Anaheim taxpayers still have to pay normal rent payments for the existing shelter and fees for field services with no discounts. ha.

    Have any of you Anaheim folks researched how you’re getting soaked by the county dog catcher lately?

    $3M is bad. $7M is a strong-arm.

    Sweat the big stuff.

  • astar2b

    Kris Murray is acting like a future Mayor…!

    • David Zenger

      No, she’s acting like a past mayor.

    • Philmore

      In fiscal and economic competence, like a mayor of CHICAGO or DETROIT.

      • Philmore

        Except for cutting the Mayor’s staff budget, can anyone recall a vote she cast AGAINST spending money, or questions from her to examine BOTH SIDES of the financial consequences of an expense ? With the other two Klepto3 members, she has been a reliable rubber stamp for Staff’s pet projects and revenue diversion to her Tourism industry handlers.

        • RyanCantor

          That wasn’t a vote to cut spending money. She immediately spent it the same day.

          She has never, ever, voted to cut spending.

  • David Zenger

    Oh, great. Now we’re being shaken down by a volleyball team.

    • RyanCantor

      Oh come on now, seriously. It’s not that bad.

      Why would anyone, ANYONE, want to come to Anaheim or do business in Anaheim without a big fat subsidy?

      Wait. No. Seriously. Why would anyone want to come to Anaheim without getting paid to do so. The city council has made it absolutely crystal clear that you are in fact a raving lunatic if you don’t come demanding money from them. They have yet this millennium to vote down a tax break/credit/giveaway for anyone or anything.


      • Cynthia Ward

        That is my fear Ryan. There is a formula here.

        1. Disinvest in your own city’s neighborhoods, using the funds to instead prop up the profitable businesses of your campaign donors.
        2. When the city you have disinvested in becomes so undesirable that businesses no longer wish to operate there, offer subsidies to THEM too.

        How about we invest in our own community, making it a desirable place to live and increase property values and property tax base (far more stable than the crack cocaine of bed tax) and ALSO make this an attractive place for the small and mid size businesses that might create better paying jobs than the tourism industry to create sales tax etc? Gee, what a concept. Nope, instead we pretend that Anaheim has been so marked down on the clearance rack that nobody would ever do business with us unless paid to do so. What message does that send when our own DIRECTOR of Economic Development says “Anaheim is not yet a great city” seriously that meeting in May 2015 I wanted to scrawl those words across woodshed’s 6 figure paycheck and throw him out of the building. And our elected leaders LET HIM. It’s like standing there saying nothing while someone calls your child ugly and not too bright. SLAM. If Anaheim so monumentally sucks that nobody will come here without a cash payment then can we please FIRE the staffers who have been paid good money for many years to provide services to the city because clearly they suck at it.

        No? That would not let Murray get her photo with the Olympic teams for her campaign mailers for Spitzer’s Supe seat in 2018. That is a very expensive photo shoot, but what does Kris care, its not her money.

        • RyanCantor

          Nope, Anaheim isn’t worth it. You have to beg for people to visit and spend money. That’s “The Anaheim Way.”

          $6,000,000,000 in new investment in the upcoming decade. Exactly $0 attributed to organic subsidy free growth. Tax breaks for residents? Also $0. Tax breaks for small businesses? Also $0. In fact, not one tax subsidy proposed to a Kris Murray/Lucille Kring/Jordan Brandman campaign donor has ever been rejected. <– That's the real "Anaheim Way".

          "The Anaheim Way", as Colin Powell would say, #stilldickingresidents

          • Cynthia Ward

            I was going to make a crass comment about buying us dinner first but that would cost us even more.

          • RyanCantor

            They’d just bill you for it anyway. 🙂

        • Cynthia Ward

          Oh Cynthia, you are so cynical. Of course nobody would use City Council deeds to promote themselves for office. Well look at what the PIO has put together on the City website. Now in addition to seeing the Council video (oh so carefully edited to ensure we don’t see the twins on the end giggling and gossiping) we also now have PHOTOS from the Council meetings. So handy for those getting the presentations (instead of simply emailing them) now helpfully put online for anyone wanting to create that IE for an incumbent.

  • RyanCantor

    “Pitting USA Volleyball against at-risk youth programs is a mischaracterization and a falsehood,” said Murray.

    Right. Because Kris Murray is an expert on mischaracterizations and falsehoods.

    . . .

    Wait a minute . . .

    • David Zenger

      Step one: commission a conjured up, bogus, self-serving analysis.
      Step two: use it to justify crony capitalism in the millions – it’s not a subsidy, it’s an investment!
      Step three: denounce intelligent skepticism as lies and mischaracterization.