No sport is out of bounds when it comes to lining up events for North Myrtle Beach’s planned sports complex.
The complex, under construction and set to open in March, landed the International Quidditch Association’s World Cup event April 5-6, officials announced last week. If the city’s sports tourism recruiters have their way, expect to see more non-traditional sports on the fields at the new complex in addition to the more common baseball and softball.
Never heard of Quidditch? The Harry Potter-inspired sport – adapted less than 10 years ago – is sometimes described as a combination of rugby, dodge ball, hide-and-seek and tag, with players carrying brooms between their legs and aiming to score points by putting a slightly deflated volleyball called a quaffle into one of three hoops.
It was adapted in 2005 at Middlebury College in Vermont and is now played at more than 300 universities and high schools in North America, Australia and Europe, according to the association’s website.
“We are pursuing other [non-traditional] events, although none quite as large as the World Cup,” said Matt Gibbons, North Myrtle Beach’s superintendent of sports tourism who has been recruiting events for the complex. “We have been in talks with representatives from rugby, ultimate Frisbee, lacrosse and many other non-traditional sports.”
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 one-acre dog park and picnic shelters. There also will be a Veterans Plaza with a gathering area and a multi-purpose trail. The complex is off Robert Edge Parkway, just off S.C. 31.
John Bullard, director of the city’s Parks & Recreation Department, said earlier this summer that recreational options on the lake also are possibilities.
“One of the many great aspects of our facility is the flexibility it gives us in attracting different events,” Gibbons said. “We designed the park to be as inclusive as possible to many different sports/events.”
Officials say the complex is the city’s ticket to grow sports tourism, which they say will bring business to the beach especially during the slower spring and fall seasons.
The Quidditch World Cup is one of about 48 events that are set for the new sports complex generating a total of at least $14 million, city officials said, a pace that already exceeds the $10 million economic impact officials estimated the complex would have during its first year. The city is finalizing the tournament schedule for next year and will be releasing it in the next few weeks, Gibbons said.
When it comes to Quidditch, Gibbons admits he didn’t know all the ins and outs of the Harry Potter-inspired sport when he heard about the World Cup event at a national convention and decided to pursue it – but quickly learned.
“I didn’t realize how passionate of a fan base it had worldwide,” he said. “It is a new sport and it has really taken off, especially on college campuses.”
The city submitted a bid for the Quidditch World Cup earlier this year and beat out the other finalist, Kissimmee, Fla., which hosted the event this year. IQA was founded in 2010 and hosts or sanctions about 25 events a year, including the World Cup.
North Myrtle Beach issued $15 million in general obligation bonds to buy the land and help pay for construction of the complex, and raised the property tax rate by six mills for eight years to generate revenue to pay for it.
While officials tout the complex’s potential to boost sports tourism, they also plug the park – which will be the city’s largest by far – as a go-to spot for locals to exercise, have family picnics in the meadow and get some exercise for their dogs, too, in the dog park.
Contact DAWN BRYANT at 626-0296 or at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_dawnbryant.