Editorial | High time for Chants; NMB sports park is top-notch

March 16, 2014 

MATT SILFER FOR THE SUN NEWS. Buy Photo

Selection Sunday perhaps will settle down somewhat several days of high anticipation for the Coastal Carolina University men’s basketball players, coaches and their fans. The Chanticleers are in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1993 and as coach Cliff Ellis remarked, “It’s a special time.”

A victory against Winthrop gave CCU the conference championship and the berth in the NCAA, the “Big Dance” in college basketball. Seedings of all the teams are announced on Selection Sunday. The NCAA is played in four regional tournaments at several locations. After play-in games for some teams, 16 play in each regional – only 64 teams from the 351 Division I college basketball programs in more than 30 conferences. The winners of the regionals are the Final Four.

So it is indeed a big deal to be in the NCAA tournament. Regardless of the outcome of the next game, watching for the announcement on Selection Sunday puts the Chants in a really special place. (In the regionals, No. 1 seeds play No. 16 teams, 2s play 15s and so on. The lower the number, the better for Coastal’s chances of advancing.)

Coach Ellis is no stranger to the NCAA; his teams from three other universities (Auburn, Clemson, South Alabama) have been in eight previous tournaments. Prior to post-retirement coaching at CCU, Ellis already ranked among the top college basketball coaches. The CCU program is fortunate to have him. Congratulations to the CCU team – the players, Ellis and assistants.

Sports complex a boon for area

Sixty-one college softball teams from 18 states played in the annual Fastpitch Dreams Spring Classic that inaugurated the impressive new North Myrtle Beach Park & Sports Complex. The event features 13 teams this week, in the third and final week of the classic which moved to North Myrtle Beach after six years in Myrtle Beach.

The 36 teams that played last week meant “three North Myrtle Beach hotels were completely sold out,” according to Matt Gibbons, superintendent of sports tourism/athletics for the city. The annual overall economic impact of the complex is estimated at $15 million to $18 million. The softball classic alone, Gibbons says, will mean a minimum of $1 million in new money for North Myrtle Beach. “It’s bigger than we thought,” he says of the event.

“We’ve had a lot of residents” watch the softball games. Each of the six ball fields will seat about 150 spectators. There is no admission charge for the classic. Other events may have an admission.

“It is absolutely fantastic,” says Dale Warner, owner and director of Fastpitch Dreams Spring Classic. Visitors have been overwhelmed with the facilities, such as “extra bathrooms, umpire rooms and concessions.” The 61 participants exceed the goal of 50 teams for this year and Warner says the goal for 2015 is 75 teams and ultimately 100.

Two dog parks in the 160-acre complex were immediately popular. There are eight soccer/lacrosse fields, an amphitheater, seven picnic shelters, three playgrounds, about three miles of walking trails, a 10-acre meadow, and a 20-acre lake for catch-and-release fishing.

The first week of the softball event, Gibbons talked to a man from Jackson, Mich., who came for the first time to the area to watch his daughter play for Jackson Community College. That was on a Friday. Gibbons saw the man again two days later and he said he would bring his family back for summer vacation.

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