With 1,500 tonnes of sand, Northlands set to host world's best beach volleyball players
There's a new, non-accidental beach in the city but don't break out the plastic shovels just yet.
More than 1,500 tonnes of Edmonton sand has taken over the former horse racetrack at Northlands, forming a (carefully levelled) playing field for world-class beach volleyball players who are set to take over the venue for a World Tour competition.
The $150,000 Edmonton Open, which starts Wednesday and run through the weekend in conjunction with K-Days, makes Edmonton only the fourth Canadian city to host the . It last came to Canada in 2016.
While top players from around the world are preparing to hit the courts, Ron Pauk's head has been filled with the details of getting them built.
"It's not just going out and digging up some sand at any random place," the Edmonton Open's operations manager told CBC Radio's Edmonton AM on Tuesday.
"The FIVB has some pretty exacting specifications … We took about three or four stabs at it before we found the right sieve sample, the right shape, the right size of grain, the right drainage.
"I certainly didn't have my head in the sand but I've had my head down just trying to make this happen."
After about 50 truckloads of sand, sourced from the Edmonton area, were dropped off at the venue last week, Pauk's crews went to work creating "six giant sandboxes," moving the sand around to be an even depth of about 45 centimetres, levelling it and adding court lines and nets.
Canada's Olympic-bound women to play
Pauk is particularly excited about the bleacher areas, which he says will offer a spectator experience similar to an NBA game. Courtside seats will make spectators feel like they're part of the action, he said.
"We have a number of seats around centre court where you're actually going to be catching the balls that kind of stray ... out of bounds," he said.
Men's and women's teams from 28 countries will participate in the tournament, which is a qualifying event for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, said John May, CEO of Live it Live Ltd.
Medal matches will be played on Sunday and winning teams will share the $10,000 first-place prizes and 600 qualifying points.
"We combine the leisure atmosphere of a day at the beach with the excitement and intensity of professional, international, Olympic sport. And the sand makes it all happen," said May.
The Canadian women's team of Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes will be crowd favourites, entering the tournament after winning Canada's first world title in Hamburg earlier this month. That win also guarantees the pair a berth at the 2020 Olympics.
Ben Saxton, who played with the University of Alberta Golden Bears from 2006 to 2009, will lead the men's Canadian contingent with his partner Grant O'Gorman.
There is no admission for spectators for the qualifying and pool-play rounds on Wednesday and Thursday. Three-day passes can be purchased from the , providing entry to the elimination rounds and Sunday's medal matches.