The Fort Smith Juniors Volleyball Club (FSJ) is hosting its annual “Battle at the Fort” volleyball tournament during the next two upcoming weekends – Jan. 31 – Feb. 1, and Feb. 7-8 – which will bring thousands of people to the Fort Smith area.
Age divisions 15-18 will play during the first weekend and ages 10-14 will play the second. 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.
The Battle at the Fort tournament is open to the public and play begins at 8 a.m. each day.
“We will have 195 teams this year. Last year was our record year at 197. Our tournament has experienced tremendous growth the last 5 to 10 years and we may finally be reaching our high end number,” Club Director 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 nine temporary sport courts in the Fort Smith Convention Center for two back to back weekends.”
The tournament has a substantial economic impact on the area as well, according to club officials. Of the teams competing approximately 90% of those are from far enough away that hotel stays are required.
Each team consists of 9 or 10 players on average and each player brings parents and siblings. So an elementary calculation means there are more than 6,000 out-of-town people eating meals and needing a place to sleep during the weekend tournament.
“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 a club statement.
The Fort Smith Juniors Volleyball Club (FSJ) is a non-profit organization dedicated to giving youth athletes from all over the region, grades 4-12, the opportunity to learn, play, compete, and develop their skills at the game of volleyball. The club is made up of more than 20 teams that include more than 200 players from around the region and as far away as Mena, Booneville, Russellville, Fayetteville and Siloam Springs.