ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) -
The Association of Volleyball Professionals -- better known as AVP -- returns to St. Petersburg this year at Spa Beach Park.
About 2,000 tons of sand was brought in for four courts. The St. Pete Open features 16 men's teams and 16 women's teams, competing for a share of $150,000 in prize money.
Olympians like three-time gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings and her partner, 2012 Olympic silver medalist April Ross, will compete. The men's side features 2008 Olympic gold medalist Phil Dalhausser and his partner, two-time Olympian Sean Rosenthal.
Other Olympians Jake Gibb and Todd Rogers make this an all-star roster.
AVP operations manager James Leitz expects fans to enjoy interacting with the athletes.
"They're all accessible. They're right there for you, you know autographs, you can say hello to Olympic gold medalists. It's really fun. It's, you know, tennis in the sand but with a whole lot of lifestyle."
Raquel Ferreira lives in St. Pete and runs a volleyball academy. She's excited about showing off her sport at home.
"All the other tournaments are in California and other parts of the United States," she said. "This is the only chance I have to show everyone -- all the people that support me -- and show the locals what we can do and how good beach volleyball is in St. Pete and Tampa Bay as well."
Rising stars Emily Day and Summer Ross pair up and promise to bring new energy and aggressive play to the seven-city AVP tour. Ross has been called the next Kerri Walsh Jennings. Summer plays with a lot of passion.
"I just love the sport because we're out in the sun, hanging out at the beach. It's a great environment. It's really fun."
Beach volleyball ranks as one of the fast-growing sports. At the St. Pete Open, fans can watch matches, then take part in free clinics and "Fun With The Pros" sessions.
General admission tickets start at $10 Friday and go up over the weekend. They run $18 for the championship matches Sunday.