The start of every Winter Olympics games might prompt thoughts of prominent sports at home in an ice rink, such as ice hockey and figure skating.
Yet, for any Grand Strand resident to enjoy either activity, he or she must travel out of town, at closest, to Wilmington or North Charleston. Building a local ice rink remains the wish of Grand Strand Ice Management’s Steve Elias of Myrtle Beach, its chief executive.
The New Jersey native, an assistant vice president in BB&T Corp. in North and South Carolina, spoke last week about his hopes for a rink in Myrtle Beach, just before his plans to attend the New York Rangers-New York Islanders game on Wednesday, part of the NHL “Stadium Series” promotion at Yankee Stadium in Bronx, N.Y.
Elias said advertising about the quest for a rink was published in January in USA Hockey and STAR Rinks magazines. The colorful ad, showing an ice rink among images of an ocean view and palm trees with illuminated trunks and rand Strand Ice Management’s logo with icicles, states “We are prospecting for investors to ‘Bring Ice to the Beach.’ Myrtle Beach, S.C., needs an ice rink.”
Promotion of the area also includes pitches about it being the “Golf Capital of the World,” with 14 million visitors every year, 280,000 residents and amenities including Myrtle Beach International Airport, beaches, nightlife, the Myrtle Beach boardwalk, hotels and shopping.
Elias, who watches his son play hockey in a league at the Wilmington Ice Arena, also said ice hockey, like lacrosse, is among the “fastest growing sports in the country.”
Question | Since Grand Strand Ice Management’s survey was begun in late 2012, and since publication of the first ad Jan. 1, what feedback and interest has been expressed?
Answer | I have had seven inquires. Some interested in being a primary investor and others as limited partners.
... The ultimate goal is to try and find the proverbial finish. ... Five inquiries were more limited ... anywhere from $100,000 on down. Two of the inquiries were rink owners from Georgia and Maine, so they’re more on the major investor side, and they have the financial information I sent to them.
Q. | What are some basic specs in mind for a proposed rink and arena?
A. | It’s essentially a single-ice-sheet facility that ... would be 45,000 square feet; the ice rink itself is 17,000 square feet. It’s 200 feet long by 85 feet wide, just for the ice surface itself, and that’s not including the bench areas, locker rooms, the snack bar and other areas.
Q. | This enterprise carries what cost estimate to build?
A. | It’s in the $5 million range, not including land for a single-sheet facility with a small, one-third-sheet practice puddle.
That cost could go one way or the other, such as whether an existing building that can be refurbished, for example, with used boards, Zambonis, and other used equipment, or building new with new materials. ... Getting the overhead, ventilation system and that kind of stuff is costly.
Q. | What other avenues of publicity have helped spread the word?
A. | We’ve been participating in some civic association ... and humane society ... events and trying to get the word out as much as we could. ... There have been a couple of places where people have said, “Aren’t you the hockey rink guy?”
Q. | What sports could make up a roster of activities at a rink?
A. | Youth and adult hockey teams, and hockey and figure skating tournaments. You wouldn’t believe how many curling organizations are looking to come to the area. There’s a tournament coming to Charlotte. ... And broomball ... it’s pretty good as a co-ed activity.
Q. | Amid the addition of baseball diamonds in Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach, how would an ice rink help sports tourism overall on the Grand Strand?
A. | It would bring people down to the Grand Strand during the shoulder seasons through all the activities that would go on. ... It will create more jobs in the ice rink and will allow people to have the opportunity to stay in the hotels. ...
A single weekend tournament could bring 2,000 people to the Grand Strand.
Q. | What are you most interested in seeing as the Olympics will soon fill TV schedules for 21/2 weeks?
A. | I have some friends ... who are refereeing women’s hockey games, so ... I have a peculiar thing when I watch, when you have a friend out there working the games. I’ve been refereeing ice hockey games for 24 years and lacrosse for 14 years. It’s fun, although I can’t compete anymore. I can still chat with the best of them. I don’t mind having a little smack talk with the players. They’re paying me to be there and have fun – that’s the most important thing about being out there. ...
Also, I’ll be watching for two female long distance speed skaters – one from North Carolina and one from South Carolina.
Q. | Will the men’s hockey gold medal game come down to Canada and the United States again, after Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller of Team USA won the MVP honor in a losing cause in 2010?
A. | Just like when the Olympics were in Vancouver, Canada was playing for their country. I think Russia will be playing for their country. Also, I think Sweden will be a pretty strong team this year.