Volleyball players sue King of the Mountain tournament promoter for not paying winners | VailDaily.com

Volleyball players sue King of the Mountain tournament promoter for not paying winners

Cassie House, back right and playing with Liz Card, sends a shot over the net in the women's open finals at the 2017 MotherLode Volleyball Classic at Koch Lumber Park in Aspen.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times |

EAGLE — A professional volleyball promoter landed in court Friday, Feb. 2, for failing to pay the winners of an Aspen tournament.

Leon Fell, of Avon, runs Vail’s King of the Mountain tournament and Aspen’s MotherLode tournament.

Players Liz Card, Aurora Santos and others say he was slow to pay prize money in 2016 and has not paid the 2017 winners at all.

Fell claimed he was “blind-sided” in 2016 when a sponsor dropped out 2 1/2 weeks before Aspen’s MotherLode tournament. He said the 2017 MotherLode also lost money, and that’s why he has not paid the players or himself.

Fell also claims in a court document that the players do not have a contract guaranteeing them prize money.

The whole thing landed in an Eagle County courtroom Friday morning. They’ll be back in court March 16.

Pay to play

Card traveled from Denver to play in Aspen’s 2017 MotherLode. Her partner, Cassie House, traveled from New Mexico. Together they won the MotherLode women’s division.

Fell told them they would be paid between $2,000 and $2,500, Card said in an affidavit.

Bill Kolinske and Miles Evans flew from Los Angeles to Aspen, where they finished second in the 2017 men’s pro division. They said they were promised $1,500. Fell has not paid them, either, they said.

Pamela McCann said she has been playing in the MotherLode for 17 years and that she was always paid by check on the day the tournament ended. She said it took Fell seven months to pay her for the 2016 tournament, which was seven days after entries opened for the 2017 tournament.

McCann said 28 teams played just in the women’s division, at $157 per team entry fee, and more than 100 teams participated overall.

No contract

In a Jan. 23, document, Fell said there was no contract or agreement that guarantees that he will pay prize money. Any agreement would be verbal, and any prize money would be would be paid from the profits. But the 2017 event lost money, Fell said.

Fell said in an email to players that it is “causing me consternation (not to mention financial crisis) to no end.”

“This isn’t the same as last year’s debacle; but, rather, the fact that low sponsorship dollars and entry fees are becoming more difficult to offset the rising costs of putting on ‘destination events’ in our sport,” Fell wrote in court documents.

He said he did not know what the prize money would be but wanted to give a “reasonable” amount.

“I will, even if it means that I sell my antique watches to make it happen,” Fell wrote.

He said he appreciates the players not airing their concerns on social media.

“… Despite my own financial crisis, I will not be paying myself my salary for this year’s event — you come first. And you always have,” Fell wrote.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

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