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Superior Sands owner Kevin Holm, right, and fellow sand volleyball enthusiast Garrett Wessberg take a break from work at the new business, located at the Mariner Mall, Friday. Wessberg, a UWS student, has been volunteering for the past month and a half, waiting for the three-court facility to open. “I just love the sport,” he said. (Maria Lockwood)

Bit of beach at the mall

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There’s no need to wait until spring to dip your toes into the sand. A new business opening at the Mariner Mall offers fun, fitness and superior sands. The 11,000-square-foot space houses three sand volleyball courts. Future plans call for a bar and grill as well.

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“There just aren’t that many venues for volleyball in the winter,” said Superior Sands owner Kevin Holm. And none in the area offer sand volleyball, a lower impact version of the sport.

“I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for a lot of people,” said Farrah Wirtz, a recent University of Wisconsin-Superior graduate and volleyball enthusiast. “Anybody who wants to can play at this facility.”

Holm, an architect with LHB in Duluth, has been prepping the spot since the end of October. The piles of Bayfield sand have been sifted for softness. Insulation and heating mats lie underneath to keep it at a comfortable 80 degrees. LED lighting has been installed to illuminate the space. People who drop by “can feel like they’re at the beach for an hour,” Wirtz said.

Play is expected to kick off Monday, with 16 different leagues set up to offer as much variety as possible. Teams can sign up now through the Superior Sands website at www.superiorsands.com.

How big is the local interest in sand volleyball? More than 600 teams play throughout the Twin Ports over the summer, Holm said. Superior Sands will provide a new venue for them to keep sharp the rest of the year.

“It’s a huge opportunity,” said Aaron Dandrea, owner of Vintage Italian Pizza and a friend of Holm’s. “It’s a good draw.”

Sand volleyball is easier on the joints and participants can throw themselves into dives and saves without fear of floor burns, said Wirtz, the Douglas County Aquatic Species Coordinator for UWS.

“First and foremost, it’s fun,” she said. It’s also a good workout and a social sport. And the courts open in less than a week.

“I can’t wait,” said Garrett Wessberg of Superior. “That’s why I’m here every day.” The UWS student has been volunteering at the new business for the last month and a half. Friday, he shoveled sand onto the courts.

“I just love the sport,” said Wessberg, who’s been playing sand volleyball for years.

Holm originally planned to open Superior Sands in the former C’s Restaurant and Lounge. But that spot went to Kwik Trip. So he set his sights on the Mariner Mall. The space at 69 N. 28th St. offers plenty of parking and high overhead clearance for games.

Some may think sand volleyball an odd choice for a mall storefront. Other non-retail businesses have found success there. Sterling Silver Dance Studio moved to the mall in 2009.

“It works fantastic for us,” said owner Carolyn Nelson-Kavajecz. She looks forward to welcoming Superior Sands to the building.

“It’s really unique,” she said. “Whenever a new business opens in Superior, I think it’s very exciting.”

Holm said he plans to employ up to 15 at the new business including referees and bar staff. A liquor license for Superior Sands was approved at the Dec. 17 City Council meeting.

“I think it’s a great fit,” said Dandrea. Superior Sands will offer exercise, entertainment and, he said, “a touch of spring.”

More information on Superior Sands can be found at the website or on Facebook under Superior Sands Bar & Grill.

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