Updated at 12:57 p.m. Feb. 28.
If the people of Imperial Beach want a sandcastle competition to return to IB in 2013, the city said, they're going to have to help.
"People need to know this is sort of a critical decision point," said Imperial Beach City Manager Gary Brown. "They've got to be serious. I mean to come down and just say I love the event and not step forward aint going to cut it."
After 31 years, increasing costs and a lack of volunteers led the U.S. Open Sandcastle Committee to disband in 2011, said chair Debbie Longley.
At its height, the U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition attracted hundreds of thousands of people and was Imperial Beach's biggest event of the year for decades.
Earlier this month the Port of San Diego agreed to fund the first three years of a new sandcastle event.
Kent Trollen runs the company Sand Castles Unlimited and has organized more than 20 sandcastle competitions. He is working with the Port and Gordon Summer, who helped raise funds for the U.S. Open, to put together a new one-day sandcastle competition in IB.
Together with the help of sandcastle teams like Archisand, Sand Squirrels and I.B. Posse, Trollen and Summer hosted a new competition on the Broadway Pier downtown last August.
"We met with the port staff yesterday and the potential manager and their big question was is there really local support in terms of volunteering for the local event?" Brown said.
To measure the public's willingness to volunteer, a meeting will be held Thursday March 7 in the Community Room at City Hall at 6 p.m.
The Imperial Beach Chamber of Commerce, Imperial Beach Business Improvement District and local schools have been notified via email, Brown said.
"What we're simply saying is we need help, and if people don't volunteer, they can just say let's fold up the tent," he said.
To bring the competition back, Trollen said, the community is going to have to face reality and at least 40 committed volunteers will be needed.
"It's gotten to the point where the city [residents] have to be a part of it or it's not going to happen. If nobody speaks up, done deal," Trollen said.
A price estimate the group received from the sheriff's department and city emergency services essentially swallows $40,000 the Port will contribute. An additional $50,000 from sponsors or donors is needed to get the competition going and there isn't a lot of time left to raise money.
"That's kind of where it stands and really the conclusion of the meeting is all the money the port was kicking in is gone which provides no operating money to make it happen," he said. "So were starting out broke."
"These people need to step up to the plate, sign up and take responsibility or we aren't going to have an event. Because we don't have time to generate $50-$70,000 in sponsorship money," Trollen said.
Ultimately, Trollen would like to see organizers head the effort to bring a competition back then hand it over to the community.
If a sandcastle competition is held in Imperial Beach this year, a deal drawn up by the Port requires the event be held after Labor Day and act as a 50th anniversary celebration for the Port.
Holding the competition after Labor Day would also allow tickets to be sold for the event under California Coastal Commission rules.
Instead of a competition the size of the U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition, a new Port sponsored competition would aim for a scaled down competition which attracts at least 10,000 people.