With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics underway, the AVP’s beach volleyball stars will be on full display for the world to witness. Whether it is the heavily favored women’s team of April Ross and Alix Klineman, or the newly formed men’s team of Jake Gibb and Tri Bourne (due to Taylor Crabb’s positive COVID test), a medal winning performance can thrust these athletes into stardom when they return home.
While these athletes compete for Olympic glory, the one thing they can expect when they come back from Tokyo is new AVP leadership. In an announcement earlier this month, the Bally’s Corporation acquired the AVP and all its assets from former owner Donald Sun for an undisclosed amount. Sun, who paid $2 million for the AVP when he purchased it in 2012, was pleased with the terms of the deal.
“I can put it to you this way; it was a fair deal for both sides,” Sun said during a recent interview.
Bally’s who has 21 regional sports networks, plans to use its distribution channels to increase awareness and engagement for the tour. Bally’s also plans to gamify the AVP’s interactive content, as well as expand into its online sports betting channels. While beach volleyball purists might cringe at the mention of gamification and betting, Sun assured Bally’s will follow the necessary regulations to ensure the AVP’s competitive health.
“They’re going to do whatever they need to do to make sure that the sport is legitimate,” he said. “This is one of those legacy things, right? People don’t like change, but if you look at other [sports], that’s exactly what’s been going on for all time. It’s just that now, at least it’s acceptable in the eyes of the public. … It happens in the [United] States right now; at least we’re giving it to someone legitimate.”
Bally’s approached Sun in December 2020 for a partnership, as Bally’s was looking to increase its footprint in professional sports. Sun and his crew tinkered with an in-house fantasy sports game during the AVP’s 2020 series in Long Beach and was intrigued by the possibility of a partnership. The more Sun thought about the idea, it became evident that Bally’s could take the sport even farther than he has in his nine years of ownership.
“Since they reached out to us, the more I thought about it, the more I figured it’s probably best if there is a complete “partnership” together,” he said. “Why don’t you just take AVP because that’s what we were intending to do all along. You have all those assets and all those capabilities to gamify and pump more revenue into the sport. It just made sense.”
With only three AVP events scheduled this year, critics wondered if the truncated schedule was a sign the AVP was in financial trouble. Sun explained how the Olympics taking their brightest stars for part of the summer accounted for the three tour stops, as well as the difficultly securing venues well in advance due to each city’s COVID procedures.
Sun and his staff will stay on as advisors to ensure a smooth transition. He insisted the deal had nothing to do with any financial challenges and believes the sport will ultimately be better off under a large corporation like Bally’s.
“This had nothing to do with cash flow, nothing to do with any of that stuff,” he said. “It was just the right thing to do. I saw the opportunity for this to just continue to prosper under a different ownership besides myself. I’m not trying to be a martyr; I just know it’s good for the sport.”