When The Academy Volleyball Club and Boiler Juniors joined forces in Lafayette, Indiana four years ago, the club rented courts at a local multi-sport facility for all practices and training. The past few years, Boiler Juniors has grown substantially, increasing by 25+ club teams, running six weeks of summer camps every year, adding youth training opportunities and even hosting their own tournaments. With all of the growth and remaining potential, it was evident that a new facility was needed in order for The Academy Boiler Juniors to truly reach the next level.

On July 14th 2021, the Boiler Junior Volleyball Center opened its doors to the public for the first time. After spreading practices and training out to four different facilities this past club season, the players, families and coaches were thrilled to have a six-court facility to call home. Modeled after The Academy Volleyball Club’s Indianapolis location, the Boiler Junior Volleyball Center was created in a local industrial building, allowing for high ceilings, ample parking, and spacious courts.

As the club entered the 2021-2022 club season, there were numerous benefits the club was able to take advantage of, with their new facility, including having the ability to train up to 12 teams at one time, adding additional youth programming due to having exclusive use of the courts, hosting tournaments on multiple weekends throughout the season, and running their own concession stand and pro shop.

While the Boiler Junior Volleyball Center is a great home facility for the club, and even comes with potential to grow, getting the building ready for training and competition did not come without its challenges.

Here are six challenges that The Academy Boiler Juniors staff faced and how they overcame them:

Challenge #1: Proper Light Guards for the Light Fixtures

During the renovation process, the staff could not find light guards to fit the light fixtures.

Solution: The first step to finding fixtures was to find specs of the existing fixtures from the owners / property managers. Once the staff found the specs, they faced a secondary challenge when they found out the fixtures were discontinued, which meant the light covers were also discontinued. Using the specs they had of the fixtures, they reached out to multiple local lighting companies and electricians who all said the same thing – “we can’t find those fixtures anywhere.”

The staff reached out to several lighting companies online, sent them the specs, and even agreed to a lot of risky shipping and handling costs if the fixtures didn’t work out. They were able to find two different types of light guards to install, and altered them slightly with some separate hardware in order to make them work.

Challenge #2: Court Arrival and Core Drilling

The hardest thing about planning core drilling and court material arrival was figuring out when to order and when to schedule. The staff knew that shipping would take possibly longer due to pandemic materials and demands, but they also weren’t sure when they were going to be able to take possession of the facility.

Solution: A lot of construction work was required prior to the club being allowed into the facility, but the staff also needed to make sure that as soon as they were allowed access, they were ready to install.  This required a staff member checking in regularly on the property to hold the owners / property managers to their reported schedules, as well as other agencies who played a role including city and state governments as each county and city had set requirements that the build out also had to meet. Being prepared for install and staying in constant communication with the installers and property manager, allowed the staff to lay the courts just in time.

Challenge #3: The process of adding bathrooms

This was an expensive but necessary challenge. The necessary bathrooms were completed by the deadline, however some lessons were learned.

Solution: Review the plans with the contractor themselves, not the person hiring the contractor. In addition, find out what’s required by state and local governments to pass code and then review the plans again. This includes, but is not limited to, flooring, walls, soap and toilet paper dispensers, where the fixtures will be placed inside the stalls, what type of hand dryers, and electrical requirements for desired hand dryers, etc.

Review the plans early. For Boiler Juniors, the hidden secondary challenges included, supply shortages caused by the pandemic, but also having to go back and re-do the placement of the fixtures, and even hiring an electrician to add outlets where they weren’t placed.

Challenge #4: The need for wall padding

The courts inside the Boiler Junior Volleyball Center are close to the walls. Optimizing space to ensure at least six courts meant butting two of the six courts up against a wall.

Solution: The staff is excited that the courts at the facility allow for more serving and training space, but they still felt it necessary from a safety perspective to add padding to the wall to protect the players from any injury. The wall padding was purchased from AK Athletics.  The staff chose them based on price, response time to inquiries, and turn around time.  They decided on 5 foot tall padding that spanned any spaces along the walls that overlapped with sport court that a ref would deem playable area. In an ideal world, having 10 more feet between the courts and the walls could have eliminated this expense.

Challenge #5: Adding net dividers between courts

The ceiling in the facility didn’t have good rafters to hang court dividers. A decision between hanging court dividing nets from the ceiling or drilling additional holes into the concrete and installing the dividers between two more poles or even two by fours was discussed.

Solution: After a lot of deliberation The Academy decided to minimize the amount of barriers in the aisle way they ordered 12 foot tall netting from the ceiling which will result in about 10ft of cable hanging from the ceiling. The nets will span only the width of the sport court.  We will do this by using the contractor we partnered with for our Pro Shop construction who was kind enough to offer to help us look for ways to create as little ceiling / overhead clutter as possible.  This was the secondary challenge behind adding net dividers as most companies do not install the nets for you but offer you only the materials to hang them.  Keep that in mind when obtaining prices because when getting estimates it was only for materials, not installation.

Challenge #6: Codes, variances, zoning, oh my!

It was touched on briefly in Challenges #2 and #3 but it’s important to understand what the current “status” of your newly purchased or rented space is. For example, The Boiler Junior Volleyball Center location was classified as a manufacturing space for storing dry goods, and not for assembly. This meant all new fire and safety requirements including but not limited to: emergency exit lights, emergency exit signs, push bars for emergency egress, sprinklers, additional drywall to increase burn time, and even in some cases new doors. Thankfully, most of these requirements fell to the owner but it also meant more time before occupancy could occur.

There are so many benefits to owning and operating a volleyball facility, so if your club is in a position where you are entertaining the idea, that is very exciting for your staff and your members. Be prepared to spent countless hours researching, planning, re-planning and making adjustments to your timeline and your business plans. Reach out to the JVA if you have questions or need guidance along the way.

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About the Author

Emily is the Executive Director of The Academy Volleyball Club in Indianapolis, Indiana. Emily began coaching in 1999 and spent time at two high schools and three different clubs before founding The Academy. Emily was named to the inaugural American Volleyball Coaches Association’s (AVCA) 30 Under Thirty list in 2009. In 2020, she was named the AVCA Club Director of the Year, after receiving an honor mention in 2019. Emily is now a serving member on the Junior Volleyball Association’s Board of Directors.