North Myrtle Beach expects 20,000-plus sports tourists in 2014

sjones@thesunnews.comOctober 31, 2013 

North Myrtle Beach already has enough events booked into its new sports tourism complex that it’s expecting 18,000 to 20,000 participants for them between the complex’s opening in March and the end of 2014.

“And that doesn’t count moms and dads, grandmoms and granddads,” said Matt Gibbons, the city’s superintendent of sports tourism.

Officials are expecting a $15 million economic impact from those groups, and are helping to ensure it by requiring that participants in most of the 63 events stay in local lodging rooms. The North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce has hired a person to handle the requests.

Events that are staged jointly with other areas, such as Myrtle Beach, will not carry the requirement for local lodging.

The $15 million complex will be joined by Myrtle Beach’s indoor sports tourism complex for which site work just began behind the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.

Sports tourism is the fastest growing segment of the tourism market and one the area has tapped into for at least several years by using school and public park facilities. The new complexes will give dedicated space to events area promoters are sure will bring in dollars and provide jobs during shoulder seasons.

“You give kids a chance of going to Rock Hill for a tournament or coming to North Myrtle Beach for a tournament, you’re going to come here,” said Marc Jordan, the chamber’s president.

Besides the sports facilities North Myrtle Beach has prepared over the last year, there is so much else for competitors and their families to do in the area, including going to the beach, shopping, eating at restaurants and checking out attractions, Jordan said.

With 63 events now booked, Gibbons said there are no weekends left for the complex’s baseball and softball fields and just a few openings on the soccer and lacrosse fields. Most of the tournament directors are familiar with the area, he said, although events have been booked by a couple of new groups each from the Upstate and North Carolina.

“Hopefully,” Gibbons said, “they’ll bring people from all over.”

The complex is divided into three parts with the baseball/softball and soccer/lacrosse fields flanking the 160-acre site with a meadow, amphitheater, playground, dog park and picnic shelters dividing them. There will be walking trails and a 26-acre lake on the site that borders S.C. 31 at Robert Edge Parkway.

“All the fields are down and planted,” said Gibbons, adding that construction has begun on the administration building. The complex is to be ready by March 1, the month that the three-week National Collegiate Sports Invitational is to be the first event at the complex.

Jordan said the Chamber of Commerce has compiled a list of all the city’s rental condominiums so the teams and families will have places to stay as hotels overflow.

Jordan said the complex got started about five years ago when someone suggested the city needed new tennis courts. That grew to a plan for a 50-acre complex and then into what’s on the ground now.

“I think now everybody would agree we wish we had 200 acres,” Jordan said.

Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.

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