Myrtle Beach moving forward with indoor sports complex

mprabhu@thesunnews.comOctober 28, 2013 

Work is being done to clear trees behind the Myrtle Beach Convention Center on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013. There will be a groundbreaking event next week in the area where an indoor sports complex is planned. Photo by Janet Blackmon Morgan / jblackmon@thesunnews.com

JANET BLACKMON MORGAN — jblackmon@thesunnews.com Buy Photo

— Work has begun to prepare land for a $12.4 million, 100,000-square-foot indoor sports complex in Myrtle Beach with construction expected to begin in February.

Crews have worked for a few weeks to clear more than six acres near the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, said convention center general manager Paul Edwards.

A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday. Assistant city manager John Pedersen said the groundbreaking is being held three months before construction is expected to begin as a way to help generate excitement around the sports complex and help fill it with events.

“We’re just ready to move forward,” Pedersen said. “There’s a lot of positive momentum behind the project. … We feel good about the enthusiasm of the public.”

Myrtle Beach City Council voted in July to build the indoor complex aiming to boost sports tourism in Myrtle Beach, especially during the beach’s slower times of the year.

The complex will include eight basketball courts – which will be cross-lined to hold two volleyball courts each, a café and retail area, an entertainment zone featuring a climbing wall and a 1,500-seat telescopic bleacher system.

Coastal Carolina University and Horry-Georgetown Technical College would be able to use all city sports tourism venues as learning laboratories for their proposed sports tourism curricula.

The city is working with Sports Facilities Advisory, a Florida-based management consultant company, and Myrtle Beach architecture firm Usry, Wolfe, Peterson, Doyle to finalize plans for the facility.

“We’re about 90 percent there,” Edwards said. “We’re still tweaking things – more aesthetically then functionally. We want it to look as good as possible.”

Pedersen said SFA is in charge of filling the facility with events, though he said it is not far enough along to begin officially marketing it to potential clients. SFA offers recreation and sports planning to facilities across the country, including the 80-acre Rocky Top Sports World indoor and outdoor sports complex in Gatlinburg, Tenn.

Edwards said the convention center has received many calls asking for details about the facility – which is expected to open in February 2015 – but said so far there’s been very little to share.

He said he doesn’t expect the complex to only hold sporting events, adding that the facility could be configured to hold conventions.

“Of course we don’t want to take business away from the convention center,” he said. “We have to protect our first investment. … But we want to put whatever we can in it and have it occupied, especially in the beginning.”

Local residents were invited to submit suggested names for the facility through a contest run by the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. About 75 suggestions were submitted. A panel of local judges will put together a list from which the City Council will select an official name. The name will be announced by the end of the year.

Budget director Michael Shelton said the facility will be financed through bonds that would be paid back over 25 years through hospitality fee revenue and wouldn’t cause property tax rates to increase.

The facility satisfies extended stipulations of a $7 million grant the city received in state funds in 2005 to purchase nearly 40 acres next to the convention center.

Gov. Nikki Haley signed a bill earlier this year that extends the initial timeframe for completion that was stipulated when the funds were granted from 10 years to 15 years, meaning the city would have until 2020 to complete the expansion instead of 2015.

Pedersen said once the architectural plans are completed and approved they will be sent out for bids from prospective contractors. Once the contractor is selected and has time to prepare, construction would begin.

The groundbreaking will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday in the parking lot of the convention center, 2101 N. Oak St. in Myrtle Beach.

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

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