MYRTLE BEACH You might notice more young soccer players than usual kicking it along the Grand Strand this weekend.
About 230 teams from the Carolinas, Georgia and Virginia will converge on the area for the Coast Spring Classic, a youth soccer tournament in its fifth year that is an example of the sports tourism market local tourism leaders are trying to tap.
This tournament, put on by the local group Coast FA (Futbol Alliance), is expected to bring nearly 2,800 players, as well as their parents and other supporters, to the Grand Strand, pumping about $1.6 million into the local economy, organizers said.
The two-day tournament, which kicks off at 8 a.m. Saturday, is one of the top five largest events of its kind in the Southeast this month, said Heyward Gulledge, director of Coast FA. The games will go on if it rains, as long as theres no lightning.
Games are being played on the fields at The Market Common, Coastal Carolina University, in Socastee and Pawleys Island.
The group, which also put on a tournament in February that had 54 teams, gets accommodations tax money to market the events, including $50,000 from Horry County and $20,000 from Myrtle Beach.
If you look in the dictionary this is what you would see under sports tourism, Myrtle Beach spokesman Mark Kruea said.
Grand Strand tourism promoters have stepped up efforts to lure more sports events to the area, in part because they say most of the events happen in the slower spring, fall and winter seasons when businesses need an economic boost. The area has the hotel rooms, restaurants and attractions to accommodate the visitors, Kruea said.
Sports tourism created $132 million in spending in Myrtle Beach last year, he said.
In North Myrtle Beach, construction is underway on a new sports complex that officials say will bring more sports business to the north end. The complex, which includes a 27-acre lake, will have six baseball-softball fields, up to eight soccer-football-lacrosse fields, an amphitheater, playgrounds, a dog park and picnic shelters.
There also will be a Veterans Plaza with a gathering area and a multi-purpose trail. The complex is scheduled to host its first event in March 2014.
Contact DAWN BRYANT at 626-0296 or at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_dawnbryant.