State grants time extension on construction of Myrtle Beach Convention Center expansion

mprabhu@thesunnews.comJune 17, 2013 

— After nearly being unable to meet the requirements of a $7 million grant from the state to help build an extension of the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, the city of Myrtle Beach received an additional five years to complete the project.

Gov. Nikki Haley signed the bill last week that extends the timeframe for completion from 10 years to 15 years, meaning the city would have until 2020 to complete the planned 100,000-square-foot expansion instead of 2015.

“This is recognition that the Myrtle Beach tourism economy puts a lot of money into the states coffers,” city spokesman Mark Kruea said.

The city is considering building an indoor sports facility to complement the convention center, allowing it to hold larger events and bring larger groups to town, Kruea said. City Manager Tom Leath said the bill included specific language that allows the city to build the 100,000 square feet of sports space.

“We’re going to continue to gather information on that for City Council and at some point take them a proposal,” Leath said.

The city received the $7 million grant in 2005 from the sate to purchase nearly 40 acres next to the convention center, with stipulations that the work either begin within five years or be completed within a decade.

City officials told state legislators that the failing economy slowed down the process.

The Senate Finance Committee discussed the bill during a hearing in April, and Kruea said then that the bill broadens the scope of projects the city is allowed to put on the property. When the city initially courted the state for the $7 million, the city intended to build a trade center on land behind and adjacent to the convention center.

In January, the manager of the National Association of Sports Commissions told the City Council it should consider building a 90,000 square-foot indoor sports facility. Don Schumacher told the council 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, Schumacher said. Assistant City Manager John Pedersen said events in 2012 generated $132 million in direct spending.

Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes, who is the executive director of the Beach Ball Classic basketball tournament held annually at the convention center, has said repeatedly that he wants to grow sports tourism in the Myrtle Beach area.

“I want to see the sportsplex built and completed for indoor sports,” he said. “It could have a direct economic impact of $25 million.”

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

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