Manhattan Beach hopes it can get the “Wimbledon of beach volleyball” over the net this year – so it brought in some help.

The City Council has enlisted New York-based marketing firm IMG and USA Volleyball, the sport’s Olympics-sanctioning body, to give an assist in staging the 2011 Manhattan Beach Open in August.

The Association of Volleyball Professionals Tour had run the event since 1984. But when the AVP shut down a week before the August 2010 Manhattan Beach Open, USA Volleyball and the city scrambled to put together a last-minute version of the tournament. With just $25,000 in prize money, compared with $250,000 the prior year, the match failed to attract big-name competitors.

Last fall, a City Council committee approached IMG and USA Volleyball about running this year’s event. One condition was a minimum of $200,000 prize money, paid by USA Volleyball and IMG. The two producing partners will share with the city any revenue beyond the break-even point.

Sponsored naming rights to the event will also change. Last year’s event was supposed to be called “AVP Nivea Tour Manhattan Beach Open,” but when AVP went under, the Nivea money went away. This year, the sponsor, which has yet to be named, will be listed after the event title, as “presented by.” But companies don’t pay as much for that.

“It’s a tougher economic model for us and IMG because they take away the event title sponsorship and require us to pay a minimum of prize money,” said Dave Williams, managing director of beach volleyball for USA Volleyball.

The goal is to restore the event to its former stature. In the past, it had been televised on NBC and drew crowds numbering as high as 60,000. After the 2008 Olympics, the network did not renew the contract. Last year, the tournament was shown online and on cable channel Ion.

“We have to look at a bigger (broadcasting) partner,” Williams said. “NBC is a natural since they’re an Olympic broadcaster and we’re an Olympic partner.”

Spectators will have free admission to the 64-team open-style tournament, which will take place the last weekend of August. The event will be part of a three-stop minitour presented by IMG and USA Volleyball.

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