UCSB students will have the opportunity to watch – and even try their skills against – world-class volleyball players this weekend as the Association of Volleyball Professionals hosts the Santa Barbara Bud Light Open at West Beach downtown.

The tournament starts at 8 a.m. today on Cabrillo Boulevard, and it is one of 16 stops on the AVP/Crocs Pro Beach Volleyball Tournament – the nation’s largest volleyball tournament. Admission to the event, which is sponsored by the Crocs footwear company, is $5 with a student ID. AVP CEO and Tour Commissioner Leonard Armato said the four-day competition will feature over 200 of the best volleyball players in the country, including a number of Olympians, as well as some Santa Barbara natives.

“This is the only chance to see the greatest volleyball players in the world live, and also be a part of the beach volleyball lifestyle, which is the most fun you can have at a sporting event,” Armato said.

Monica Sears, AVP accounts executive, said West Beach was one of the first places in the world to host a beach volleyball tournament. She said Olympic gold medalists Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh will compete in the event.

Armato said there will be a special beach volleyball court where the public can play against the professional competitors.

“This is a great chance for everyone to test their skills against the best players in the world,” he said.

Sears said the event’s main attraction is the volleyball tournament, but there will also be a number of other activities for fans to participate in. She said the event will also feature an Xbox video game center, a Nautica product tent and a Jose Cuervo-sponsored bikini contest for attendees to compete in. Sears said FOX Sports will provide live coverage of the event, and she said she thinks the live coverage could help increase the tournament’s popularity.

Santa Barbara is one of the largest tournaments on the AVP tour’s 16 stops, Armato said. He said he thinks the event will attract a large crowd, possibly even topping last year’s turnout.

“We had a great turnout last year, and we expect an even better turnout this year, because of the live broadcast,” Armato said.

Armato said he thinks many people will tune into FOX Sports over the weekend to watch Major League Baseball, and that those people might stay tuned for the AVP coverage.

“We are thrilled that FOX Sports has included AVP in its impressive lineup of sports coverage,” Armato said. “The AVP Tour is very excited to become a part of this family. We are also excited at the prospect of following two Major League Baseball games, which we hope can parlay into new viewership for AVP.”