INDIANAPOLIS(WISH) - An Olympic gold medalist visited the Circle City Friday along with thousands of teenage volleyball players.
It's all part of the Nike Midwest Qualifiers, a weekend event that's expected to bring in millions of tourism dollars to the area. The event is hosting 800 volleyball teams from across the country and three-time Olympian gold medalist Misty May-Treanor.
"It's exciting to see how our sport has grown because I remember playing when I was their age in tournaments like this, and it's just grown tremendously," May-Treanor said.
For the past 14 years the Nike Midwest Qualifier has hosted the three-day tournament in Indianapolis. A spokesman from Visit Indy explained the city almost lost the event because of a lack of space, but that's until the Indiana Convention Center expanded, making more room for players and their families.
"It's extremely important. I mean getting here and just seeing the competition you would see at other big qualifiers — this or even at nationals — it's a nice first qualifier," explains Cleveland volleyball player Kyra Coundourides.
Organizers said the sea of people at the Convention Center is proof of the $20 million impact city leaders are expecting. For gold medalist May-Treanor, it's also proof of how far her beloved sport has come.
"Everybody thought California was the hot bed for volleyball and that's where I live, and I grew up and that's not necessarily true. What's so awesome to see is the amounts of opportunities these young players have nowadays because it wasn't always like this," May-Treanor said.
The volleyball tournament is a qualifier for girls ages 12–18 from across the Midwest and northeast. The tournament ends on Sunday. It's expected to bring in close to 35,000 people.
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