Consultant: Myrtle Beach should build 90K square foot indoor sports facility

mprabhu@thesunnews.comJanuary 15, 2013 

— The manager of the National Association of Sports Commissions told the Myrtle Beach City Council it should consider building a 90,000 square foot indoor sports facility.

Don Schumacher told the council during a workshop Tuesday morning that the project – which would include 10 hardwood basketball courts and create opportunity for new curriculums at Horry Georgetown Technical College – would cost about $10 million to construct.

The facility would capitalize on the $100 million the city saw in direct spending from sports tourism events in 2011, he said. Assistant City Manager John Pedersen said events in 2012 generated $132 million in direct spending.

Schumacher was commissioned to perform research on sports facility needs in Myrtle Beach. The report Tuesday was informational. Schumacher performed similar research for the city in 2009.

The goal is to “provide you with actionable data for you to decide what’s best for you,” Schumacher said.

A sports complex soon will be built in North Myrtle Beach. Construction began on the North Myrtle Beach Park and Sports Complex a few weeks ago, according to North Myrtle Beach city spokesman Patrick Dowling. The complex would include fields for soccer, lacrosse, football, softball and baseball as well as an amphitheater, picnic area and playground, among other attractions.

The city is opening bids on Wednesday for construction of the buildings, Dowling said, keeping the city on target for a three-week softball tournament scheduled to begin March 1, 2014.

In Myrtle Beach, an indoor facility would be able to draw visitors year-round, Schumacher said.

Schumacher said having the facility in the city would capitalize on a recent ruling by the NCAA that prohibits children from participating in tournaments, clinics and some camps on NCAA member facilities once they reach seventh grade.

Those tournaments and other sports events “are looking for somewhere to go,” said Mayor John Rhodes.

In addition to bringing displaced events to a new facility, Schumacher said the city should look to create new events.

“A major focus will be developing events, not bidding on [existing] events. You will bid on events, but that [should] not be the focus,” he said.

Schumacher said the suggested facility would run at a budget shortfall of about $200,000 for the first four to five years, but estimated it would bring in about 55,000 new visitors and $25 million in direct spending each year.

“It takes time to ramp up a facility like this,” he said. “Year five will be far busier than year two.”

He suggested the facility be built at HGTC on Swallow Avenue, but added it was possible to build on land that might be available at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.

“The building can assist the convention center. The idea is to do more, not to take business over here from the convention center,” Schumacher said. “The two work hand in hand.”

City Budget Director Michael Shelton said he had some concerns about the suggested project.

“It’s been a challenge to come up with a funding mechanism right now. The shortfall is a concern,” Shelton told the council. “We have to face some questions as we look to take on new things – given the revenues are not growing – what old things can we let go.”

Councilman Philip Render asked Schumacher to provide the council with information about facilities that were run with partnerships and if it was possible for the city to partner with public schools or other entities to construct and operate the facilities.

The facility would include classrooms for students in new sports management and sports administration curriculums that would be offered at HGTC. Schumacher said the facility would be staffed by five full-time employees with students providing 80 percent of the workforce in part-time positions.

Council members also asked Schumacher his opinion on building other sports facilities including soccer fields and a natatorium.

“It would be nice for you if you had 15 rectangular fields … that are 70 to 75 yards wide and 110 to 115 yards long,” Schumacher said, adding that the number of fields would enable the city to be competitive in bringing a U.S. Soccer regional championship to Myrtle Beach.

He said the city shouldn’t considering building a natatorium, adding that basketball and volleyball games bring more visitors to town.

Contact MAYA T. PRABHU at 444-1722 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_MPrabhu.

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