CONWAY — Horry-Georgetown Technical College is developing a sports tourism degree program, which could begin for some students as early as next fall.
HGTC is working on the Associate in Applied Science, Major in Sports Tourism, degree, and the college’s Area Commission gave the go-ahead Tuesday night to begin the state application process for the degree.
If approved by the state, HGTC would have the only two-year sports tourism degree program in South Carolina, said HGTC President Neyle Wilson, who said Clemson University has the state’s only four-year degree program in that area.
“We’re really excited about it and think it has tremendous possibilities to help out the Grand Strand in the shoulder seasons,” Wilson said.
The city of Myrtle Beach started a feasibility study on sports tourism in 2009, which was refreshed in 2012, Marilyn Fore, HGTC senior vice president, told the commission. There was very strong interest in sports tourism, she said, and a partnership between the city and HGTC was seen to be critical as the city moves forward with its 100,000-square-foot, indoor sports facility. Construction on that project, which will be adjacent to the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, is set to begin in February,.
The college would be able to train students to work in sports tourism, which is expanding countywide, and the city’s facility would provide paid internships for students, who many times have a financial need to work, Wilson said.
The program would officially begin in January 2015, which coincides with when the Myrtle Beach facility is expected to be operational, Wilson said, but some students could begin working on other required classes next fall.
Once the new program is approved by the state, HGTC will scan the country for the best sports tourism program model and then assemble a panel of experts, Wilson said.
“We ask them one question: ‘What should these kids be able to do when they graduate?’ and take those skill sets, and put them into course packages,” he said. “It typically takes about three years to get a program exactly where you want it.”
The sports tourism program comes on the heels of other new offerings at the college, including welding, robotics and manufacturing.
“The world changed about five years ago, and we spend a lot of time finding the best information on what will be the jobs of the future and what will return as the economy recovers,” Wilson said. “We want to be a part of that recovery, and we hope we’re on the right path.”
Contact VICKI GROOMS at 443-2401 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_VickiGrooms.