Survey says: Myrtle Beach's boardwalk rocks.
Visitors rate Myrtle Beach's new boardwalk a 4.5 out of a possible 5 points, according to a survey conducted this summer by the Downtown Redevelopment Corp.
The group met Wednesday and heard a draft report prepared from the survey results, which show that of 300 groups of people - each averaging 3.2 people - none rated the boardwalk lower than a 3 out of 5, with 5 being the highest score. The 1.2-mile boardwalk, which stretches from First Avenue to the 14th Avenue Pier, opened in May.
Redevelopment agency Executive Assistant Koribrett Turner-Vaught said her office's summer interns conducted the survey at various times of the day on weekdays between June 4 and July 30, approaching random people during events and while no events were going on.
The survey's results give a snapshot of customer satisfaction, and feedback the redevelopment agency, private businesses and the city can use in making decisions.
City spokesman Mark Kruea said the city is pleased to hear the survey results.
"That's great," he said. "Just wait until the landscaping fills in and the sabal palms have had a chance to grow."
He said the results aren't particularly surprising, though, based on the feedback city staff members have been receiving all summer, and the amount of attention the new amenity has attracted.
In July, when the boardwalk was less than 3 months old, National Geographic named it the third-best boardwalk in the nation - right behind Coney Island and Atlantic City. The boardwalk has also been featured on the "Today" show and TLC's "Cake Boss" this summer.
But the redevelopment agency wanted direct evidence from visitors.
Of the more than 900 people questioned, more than half of the people surveyed had visited Myrtle Beach fewer than three times before, while 22 percent had been here eight times or more previously.
"That shows that Myrtle Beach is attracting a whole new group of visitors while retaining its long-term, repeat customer base," Turner-Vaught said.
About 4 percent of the people surveyed were from the Grand Strand, with about 19 percent being from elsewhere in the state. About 7 percent were from Ohio and 17 percent were from North Carolina. Nearly 2 percent were from out of the country, while others came from such places as Georgia, Virginia and Tennessee, Turner-Vaught said.
Most of the groups surveyed - 71 percent - had people aged 25 to 55, while 57 percent also had people 24 and younger in them.
Besides the demographic information, the survey simply asked people to rate the $6 million boardwalk and the downtown - which earned a 3.9 average score - and offer a comment if they wished.
Eighteen people gave additional comments, which included:
Two people said the boardwalk needs more shade;
One person said the boardwalk feels safe;
One person said downtown Myrtle Beach is becoming "classier";
One person said downtown needs more or nicer places to eat;
One person said parking is an issue;
One person said parking was very convenient;
One person said they missed The Myrtle Beach Pavilion Amusement Park;
One person said the boardwalk is not as good as "the ones up north"; and
One person said they usually visit the north end of the city but came to see the boardwalk and love it.
In other business, the redevelopment group heard an update on the new, large Ferris wheel planned for the 1100 block of North Ocean Boulevard.
Starting next week, the Golden Villa motel towers will be purged of asbestos and razed, said redevelopment corporation Executive Director David Sebok, and once that is done, construction can start on the support buildings and the decking that will go around the 187-foot-tall SkyWheel.
"The gondolas are being made in Germany, and the steel is being engineered somewhere outside St. Louis right now," he said.
The cable TV channel TLC is interested in producing a program about the wheel's construction, he said, and is talking to the St. Louis-based developer about making that happen.
The wheel's developers also plan to place a high-definition camera atop the Slingshot ride, across the street, to film the wheel's construction from the motel demolition on, to produce a video presentation for later use.
The wheel is scheduled to open before the start of the 2011 summer season.
Contact LORENA ANDERSON at 444-1722.