‘Battle at the Fort’ brings dollars to the area

The Fort Smith Juniors Volleyball Club (FSJ) will host its annual “Battle at the Fort” volleyball tournament during the next two weekends (Jan. 26-27, and Feb. 1-2), and bring thousands of visitors to the Fort Smith area.

Age divisions 15 to 18 will play during the first weekend and ages 10 to 14 will play the second weekend. Teams typically travel from Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Tennessee, and of course within Arkansas to do “battle” on the volleyball court. It has grown to be the largest volleyball tournament in Arkansas and Oklahoma.

“Even at just over 180 teams the tournament continues to grow every year, Club President Greg Hale said in a statement. “When it first started nearly 15 years ago we utilized a few courts from the school system during one weekend. Today the tournament is spread out over two weekends and the club rents and places 9 temporary courts in the Fort Smith Convention Center for two weekends. Plus there is still overflow that requires the use of local school courts if and when they are available.”

The Battle has become so popular through the years that the national governing body, USA Volleyball, recently designated it as a “National Ranking Tournament,” meaning results from the tournament are used to calculate seed placements for the final “Nationals” tournament held every summer.

“The result of the ranking designation means more competitive teams from even farther away will travel to participate,” Hale said.

The team traveling the most miles for this year’s event is from Birmingham, Ala.

The tournament has a substantial economic impact on the area, according to the club. Of the 180 teams, approximately 150 are from far enough away that a two-night hotel stay is required. Each team consists of 9 or 10 players on average and each player brings parents and siblings.

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“An elementary calculation means there are well over 6,000 out of town bodies eating meals and needing a place to sleep over the course of a weekend. That translates into a huge influx of dollars into the local economy, and during a time of year when the community doesn’t draw in a lot of travelers,” noted the FSJ statement.

The Fort Smith Juniors Volleyball Club (FSJ) is a non-profit organization dedicated to giving female athletes, grades 4 through 12, the opportunity to learn, play, compete, and develop their skills at the game of volleyball. The club is made up of 22 teams that include more than 200 players from around the region and as far away as Mena, Paris, Fayetteville and Siloam Springs. The Battle at the Fort tournament is open to the public and play begins at 8 a.m. each day.

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