Whatever you do, don't drink in public in Manhattan Beach this weekend.
That's the word from Capt. Derrick Abell of the Manhattan Beach Police Department, who says that citations, not warnings, will be issued as the city mounts an effort to severely curb the neighborhood nuisances that the revered Saikley Six-Man Volleyball Tournament has brought in the past.
As part of the International Surf Festival, which kicks off tonight at 7 p.m. in Redondo Beach with the Los Angeles County Lifeguard Championships at Avenue C, the Saikley Six-Man begins Saturday at 9 a.m. when competition hits the sand between 8th Street and the pier.
Last year, some 60,000 people flocked to the beach, some parking inland of Sepulveda Boulevard near Meadows Elementary School, using the event as an excuse to party. Buses dropped off loads of beachgoers and cars whizzed around neighborhoods in search of parking beginning early in the morning, according to a 26-year Manhattan Avenue resident, who says the problem has grown in the last five years, which correlates with city officials' estimates.
To combat public drinking and the unruly behavior that often goes with it, tournament officials raised team entry fees, eliminated corporate sponsorship of teams and put the word out about "No alcohol." MBPD will also issue citations for any public behavior that is unlawful.
The entire police department will work this weekend, along with about 60 private security staffers who have been hired by the city. The bicycle fencing that surrounds the tournament play area is being doubled up to provide better access for emergency staff and to keep out individuals who have in past years crashed team tents and imbibed alcohol or stolen players' possessions. The amount of security at fence access points is being doubled too.
As with past years, each team tent must have a representative in it at all times to prevent outsiders from getting in. Authorized team players and representatives will have lanyards to indicate that they have access to the playing area.
"We hope that the word has gotten out," said Abell. "We've held meetings to educate team captains to abide by the tournament rules and regulations. This is a good event and we don't want to lose it."
Senior recreation manager Mark Leyman says that the word is "definitely out-- absolutely.
"We want this to be a safe and fun event. I feel comfortable with the steps we've taken."
One 26-year resident, who asked that his name not be used, isn't so sure that his neighborhood will see any big improvement this year. "I do think alcohol is the lure and problem, and the cracking down may tame the crowd but I expect them to use other options for attaining their alcohol," he said. Possible options include aboard buses, at homes and in downtown restaurants.
For this resident, the Saikley Six-Man brings traffic backups on Manhattan Avenue that make it difficult to get to and from his house. The biggest issues, however, are the noise and the resulting mess from vomiting and trash.
"It begins in the early morning Saturday with buses of young people who are already drinking alcoholic beverages and are hooting and hollering," he said. "The most difficult part of the entire weekend is at the end of each day but especially Saturday when the volleyball is over—the massive amounts of young people in an alcoholic stupor reeling down the middle of Manhattan Avenue yelling, screeching for cabs who refuse to pick them up, and at times being downright disgusting in behavior."
MBPD is aware of such concerns. "People [residents and downtown business owners] are frustrated," said Abell. "People have urinated behind public buildings downtown and there is vomiting and inebriation.
"When the event is over, we'll have the downtown area back to business as usual as quickly as possible," Leyman said.
Having the entire MBPD on the clock, as well as adding extra security, more portable toilets, trash and recycling containers and cleanup staff translates into a more costly event. Leyman says that the increased team fees, food vendor-related fees and more product donations this year than in years past are intended to offset these new expenses.
He reports that the tournament, which has always sold out, has at least 30 fewer teams playing this year. "We'll see in the end [how the finances turn out]. It will be a challenging year. It's new to all of us, much like a trial run."
He expects to know whether the city is in the black or red about four weeks after the event when all of the agencies involved have reported in.