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Bike rally hub shifts

Instead of being ground zero for bikers, the Myrtle Beach Convention Center will be quiet in May - silent, in fact.

The city-run convention center in the middle of town has given up on finding a replacement after the Carolina Harley-Davidson Dealers Association ditched its contract and moved to Hard Rock Park.

Now, political opposition to bikers in town means the city will be on the hook for the $38,000 contract.

"The community don't want bikers here," Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes said. "We just decided not to go after anybody."

The city could replace the dealers' event - which, for years, had been the premiere event of the 10-day rally - but City Council members said they did not want another bike event.

"That makes it kind of tough," said Paul Edwards, general manager of the convention center. "You don't want to have a women's society of this or that and then tell them" about the hundreds of thousands of motorcycle riders who will be in town.

That gives the dealers an out. They are required to pay for the space if the city cannot find a replacement. But after turning down potential business, the city will not ask the dealers to pay this year.

"That wouldn't be fair to them," City Manager Tom Leath said. "We could have replaced it more than likely with motorcycle business. We elected not to. That's a decision we made. That's not something we would expect them to pay for."

The dealers association had a contract for three more years, including this one, but the city is not sure what it will do next.

"We'll worry about next year next year," Leath said.

The Carolina dealers association event had drawn about 7,500 bikers a day to the convention center in years past, according to city figures. Police often helped direct traffic along Oak Street.

This year's event at Hard Rock Park will be from May 13 to 17, and the Harley-Davidson rally runs from May 9 to 18.

The event will feature special motorcycles, such as the Can-Am Spyder, and a pin stop for commemorative rally pins for H.O.G. - Harley Owners Group - members.

The corporate Harley-Davidson group moved to Hard Rock Park to expand, and the Carolina dealers association followed.

"When Harley said that they were leaving, we felt like it was time for us to move, too," said Click Baldwin, president of the dealers association.

Upload a photo of your bike, watch video from last year's rally and read more biker stories at the Bikers at the Beach page.
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