Ripken complex signs exclusive deal with large Myrtle Beach area lodging provider

dbryant@thesunnews.comNovember 4, 2012 

— A baseball complex that plays host to more than 1,000 teams a year has created an exclusive partnership with one of the largest lodging providers along the Grand Strand, which will mean less baseball business for other area hotels.

The Ripken Experience-Myrtle Beach signed an exclusive, three-year deal with Brittain Resort Management as the “select” lodging provider for the teams that come to Myrtle Beach for tournaments at the Ripken complex.

The venue wanted to partner with Brittain to make it easier for teams to book a place to stay and give them different lodging options among Brittain’s portfolio of 10,000 vacation rentals, said Bobby Holland, general manager of The Ripken Experience-Myrtle Beach. The partnership officially kicks in Jan. 1, though a special website, www.ripkenhotels.com, already has been set up listing Brittain’s properties.

“It’s a monster network of places to accommodate these teams,” Holland said.

The exclusive partnership with Brittain will mean less baseball business for other Myrtle Beach area hotels, with only Brittain properties listed on the official website under 2013 accommodations.

“We are certainly disappointed that they have gone exclusive,” said Ryan Hamilton, general manager of the Courtyard by Marriott off 21st Avenue North in Myrtle Beach. “Definitely disappointing but we certainly understand their decision. Ripken was such a great piece of business.”

This is the first exclusive lodging partnership for the tournament complex, which opened off U.S. 17 Bypass near 10th Avenue North Extension in 2006, billed as one of the area’s largest early steps in sports tourism, luring baseball teams here to play and and their coaches and families to stay and inject their dollars into the Myrtle Beach economy.

The complex has tournaments or events year-round, playing host to about 1,100 teams annually -- about half of those during the summer. It’s a hub for youth baseball tournaments, but also hosts college and high school spring training for baseball and softball teams.

In the complex’s early years, most of the teams stayed in the condominiums at nearby Myrtlewood Villas, which were then owned by Burroughs & Chapin Co. Inc. B&C is a partner in The Ripken Experience and helped bring it to Myrtle Beach.

But as the tournaments grew and brought more teams through the years, Ripken started also recommending other lodging options, most recently listing the Myrtlewood Villas, now owned by Brittain Resorts, and 15 other lodging properties on the official Ripken Experience website.

“We have worked with a number of hotels over the past few years,” Holland said.

Courtyard got its biggest boost from Ripken during spring training, Hamilton said. He’s still hoping to catch some of the business from Ripken players who are loyal Marriott brand customers who want to accumulate more points. Courtyard plans to keep its special Ripken rates in place through 2013, Hamilton said.

“It was a phenomenal fit,” Hamilton said of the Ripken business. “We had a really good relationship with Ripken. It certainly leaves us trying to figure out where to pick up that slack.”

The Holiday Inn Express also got a substantial amount of business from Ripken during the spring, but the hotel already is trying to make up for the loss by booking other group business, including other sports teams, general manager Tricia Jarvis said.

“It was a lot over a three-month period,” she said of the Ripken business the hotel received, but declined to give specifics.

Non-Brittain properties likely will still catch some business, Holland said, adding that “there’s definitely spillover.

“Certainly they are disappointed but they understand it’s a business decision,” he said of the hotels that previously benefitted from Ripken teams.

Holland said the move aims to make it easier for teams to find a place to stay -- a special website, www.ripkenhotels.com, already has been set up listing Brittain properties. It’s also a way to present more kinds of lodging, with some teams preferring to stay a bit farther from the baseball complex because their baseball trip is doubling as the annual family vacation, Holland said.

“A lot of teams were choosing to stay at the oceanfront,” Holland said. “This is a baseball vacation for these families. It’s a baseball tournament but it’s also their summer vacation.”

Brittain Resorts isn’t yet sure how much business the new deal will bring, but it’s the kind of partnership the lodging provider is pursuing more these days, said Monty Morrow, Brittain’s regional operations manager.

“It does us both good,” he said. “It lets their customers know exactly what they are getting when they come to Myrtle Beach.”

Contact DAWN BRYANT at 626-0296 or at dbryant@thesunnews.com or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_dawnbryant.

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