The Steamboat Doubles Volleyball Tournament started in the mid-80's when the local Chart House restaurant sponsored the original event. The Steamboat Parks and Recreation District took the reigns in the 90's, and in 1995, local player, and ex-announcer of the Molson Volleyball Tour, Red Cunningham took over the event.
Red Cunningham's announcing skills added color to the weekend, as did his relocating the event to coincide with the Steamboat Hot Air Balloon Festival and Steamboat Arts and Crafts Fair. Red also secured the Steamboat Brewery as a sponsor and Friday night check-in took place each year with a complimentary draft at the Brewery's restaurant on main street. The event was also renamed "Steamboat Powderkeg Volleyball Tournament" drawing attention to the Brewery's Powderkeg Ale. Red also teamed with Denver based SOB Volleyball Vacations to promote the weekend. SOB Volleyball Vacations coordinated $170 weekend packages that included lodging, tournament fees, VIP pancake breakfasts at the courts, and a Salmon n' Steak n' Margarita Poolside Saturday night dinner. The event saw steady growth in the "Red Years".
In 2001, Red's job relocated him to Basalt, CO, and he contacted Volleyball Of The Rockies (VOTR) regarding the future of the tourney. VOTR/SOB took over management and added their own touches to the weekend. A Friday Dinosaur Division was added in which combined players ages must meet or exceed a predetermined number, say 80 years. The Dinosaur division has sold out each year and the Dino finals serves as entertainment during the Friday evening check in at Howelsen Beach. The addition of live music (the infamous Ken Lee) at check-in has made it well worth leaving work early on Friday in order to be in Steamboat in time to enjoy the music and final match!
VOTR also added the Women's Open Sand Division in 2003 and Coed play on Sunday. Thanks to the hard work of local Colorado players, the women's sand scene in Denver/Boulder grew steadily from 2000-2006. Women's sand divisions were added to front range tournaments and Steamboat followed suit. The women's teams actually outnumbered the men's teams for the first time in 2007. The one day Sunday coed division allows players who are eliminated in Saturdays single sex play, to find a partner and get another day of competition.
With only four courts in the Steamboat valley, the tournament has always had an informal cap at roughly 48 total sand teams. In 2006, the volleyball courts at Ski Hill Park, were torn down to allow for the expansion of the Steamboat Tennis Center. This reduced available courts to 3, but it has worked well so far. The winners bracket traditionally plays at the main Howelsen Hill Courts, and the losers bracket teams get to drive up to the Mountain Court. As the weekend continues to grow we hope that the park district will allow the expansion of Howelsen Beach to include a third sand court.
Steamboat Doubles continues to be one of the top volleyball events in the country, drawing up to 500 teams to the heart of the Colorado Rockies. Each year the event hosts teams from Utah, Nebraska, New Mexico, Washington, Illinois and Minnesota as well as a huge contingent of players from all over Colorado!