The Ripken Experience-Myrtle Beach expanding to meet demand

dbryant@thesunnews.comDecember 7, 2013 

Bobby Holland, general manager of The Ripken Experience-Myrtle Beach, stands where a new field will be built to meet growing demand. The field will be modeled after Crosley Field, home of the Cincinnati Reds from 1912 to 1970. The new 90-foot diamond, which will cater to players ages 13 and up, is expected to be ready by mid-February.

DBRYANT@THESUNNEWS.COM — Dawn Bryant

Build it, and they will come. Or, in The Ripken Experience-Myrtle Beach’s case, so many players want to come, build more.

Just two years after adding a third field for players ages 13 and up, the complex is adding a fourth 90-foot diamond for that age group aiming to keep up with growing demand.

The new field, expected to cost between $1.2 million and $1.5 million, will be modeled after Crosley Field, which was home of the Cincinnati Reds from 1912 to 1970. All Ripken fields are patterned after historic parks. The complex is doing away with under-used training fields to make room for the new tournament field.

Site work was underway last week, with the field expected to be ready by the kick off of spring training season in mid-February. The complex will be able to host 100 more teams with the additional field, according to general manager Bobby Holland, who added, the complex still will need to rent fields at The Market Common and others around town for practices.

The 7-year-old complex had 120 teams on a wait list during peak tournament time last summer and had to turn away between 40 and 50 teams that wanted to use the field for spring training, Holland said.

More than 1,100 baseball and softball teams played at the complex, off U.S. 17 Bypass near Mr. Joe White Avenue, this year through youth tournaments, spring training and other programs, including a team from as far away as Australia.

“The demand is there,” he said.

The new field is the latest in a string of additions or renovations at the complex during the past four off seasons totaling about $4.5 million. It added Ebbets Field in 2011, resurfaced Griffith Field and the Polo Grounds, added restrooms and expanded the indoor food court and pro shop.

Crosley Field will probably be the last major addition at the 50-acre complex for the next few years, through improvements such as adding parking, paving paths throughout the complex and installing new turf on youth fields are being discussed, Holland said.

The Ripken Experience, a partnership between Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. and Burroughs & Chapin Co. Inc., opened in 2006 and its three fields for ages 13 and up have hosted more than 8,000 games. Teams from across the country and overseas come to compete in the tournaments and learn lessons of the game infused into the program by the Hall of Famer.

Sports tourism has been a growing segment of the industry nationally, and Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach are stepping up their games to lure some of that business. North Myrtle Beach plans to open a massive park and sports complex in March that can host a variety of tournaments, and in Myrtle Beach work has started on an indoor sports complex near the Myrtle Beach Convention Center that aims to open in February 2015. Myrtle Beach also has added more fields near The Market Common.

The Ripken Experience doesn’t see those new ventures as competition, and Myrtle Beach spokesman Mark Kruea said Ripken’s success is just proof that the city is headed in the right direction aiming to further tap the sports tourism market.

“I see that as a good sign that that particular business is doing well and sports tourism as a whole continues to be a hot commodity,” Kruea said.

Contact DAWN BRYANT at 626-0296 or at dbryant@thesunnews.com or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_dawnbryant.

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