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Myrtle Beach's allure yields California Leage-Carolina League All-Star Game

It is not Myrtle Beach's turn to host the California League-Carolina League All-Star Game, just as it wasn't the Pelicans' turn to host the game when it did in 2008.

But nobody seems to be complaining that on Tuesday the game will be at BB&T Coastal Field for the second time in three years.

"I think that was kind of the consensus the last time it was in Myrtle Beach, that they can host it every year because there's so much to do and it's such a nice city," said Potomac Nationals vice president and general manager Jonathan Griffith. "It's like the Vegas of the Carolina League. I don't think you'll hear any general managers complain about having to go there."

Myrtle Beach has been hosting the showcase of touted prospects because of the team's willingness to be a replacement host. It could be a long time before the game is at BB&T Field again, however, unless the venue's popularity leads to another switch.

The 15-year-old agreement between the cross-country leagues calls for them to alternate years hosting the game, and the Carolina League's bylaws call for the eight member franchises to host it on a rotating basis. So in theory, each Carolina League team will host the game every 16 years.

The next four teams in the rotation from 2012 through 2018 are Wilmington, Lynchburg, Winston-Salem and Kinston.

"There are plenty of opportunities to trade spots and there are plenty of opportunities to pass your turn," said John Hopkins, Carolina League president since 1984.

Potomac passed on its turn in the rotation in 2008 because its stadium lacks the frills that Nationals executives would like to host the game, and Myrtle Beach stepped up to showcase its quaint but unique and impressive stadium that opened in 1999.

Winston-Salem was supposed to host this year, but its new stadium endured construction delays that pushed its opening back a year to this season, and Dash executives didn't believe they could dedicate the necessary effort into the planning, sales and logistics needed to stage the game. The Dash now take over the Pelicans' date in 2016.

"We want to have it. The only reason we didn't was the stadium," said Ryan Manuel, Winston-Salem vice president of baseball operations. "We weren't going to be able to put the 100 percent effort into the all-star game that it deserves."

The Dash didn't decide until September that hosting this year wouldn't be feasible.

"The only team who thought they could do it was Myrtle Beach, and they stepped forward and saved the day," Hopkins said. "So it was a tremendous service to the league that they were able to host.

"Myrtle Beach did a tremendous job in 2008 and it's a great venue. We have one of the best playing surfaces in Minor League baseball there, everybody enjoys going to the beach, and it's a high-performing franchise in terms of attendance so we know you're going to have a good crowd. So it's a great choice."

Besides hosting the recent all-star game in Myrtle Beach, Greenberg Sports Group, the Pelicans ownership and management company based in Pennsylvania, also oversaw all-star events hosted by the Altoona Curve and State College Spikes in Pennsylvania in the past four years.

"We had the experience of having three all-star games in four years," said Greenberg Sports Group vice president Jeff Garner. "We already had the template in place, and we were able to easily apply that to this year. So why not host such a great event again if we were able to do it?"

Though the Nationals aren't up again until 2024 under the current rotating system, Griffith said Potomac would likely decline its next opportunity unless its stadium becomes more modern. "We feel until we're able to get a new facility we can't put on a production like that," Griffith said. "We can't really provide a VIP service for an all-star game. We don't have the luxury boxes we would prefer to have. Until we can upgrade our facilities we would most likely have to pass."

Hopkins is comfortable with his other seven franchises hosting the game. The only teams that haven't hosted it yet are Lynchburg and Winston-Salem.

The Pelicans aren't expecting to host anytime soon. "The likelihood of us getting it again out of turn I would say are slim and none," Garner said. "It was kind of the perfect storm [in 2008 and this year]. We'd love to have it and we'll petition to get it again, but they'll likely rotate the game around."

The perceived demand for the game in the market may determine if Greenberg Sports Group and Pelicans executives attempt to host the game out of turn again if the opportunity arises. Ticket sales are down this year compared to 2008, though that event sold its remaining few hundred tickets - largely standing room only - on the day of the game.

This year Garner said it appears it will be more of a struggle to reach the 6,599 capacity of BB&T Coastal Field.

"As long as the market would support the all-star game we'd be open to it," Garner said. "When we host an all-star game we want it to be something special and something people haven't experienced before. The challenge isn't necessarily the work, it's trying to make it different than it was in 2008. The challenge of the all-star game is continuing to make it fresh and interesting for people."

Ticket sales may be affected by the recent NCAA regional and super regional weekends at BB&T Field, which sold well. The NCAA Myrtle Beach Super Regional featuring Coastal Carolina and South Carolina last Saturday and Sunday sold out.

Garner sees benefits besides actual ticket sales to hosting prestigious events.

"The thing about hosting NCAA regionals and all-star games, it brings some people into the stadium that might not have seen it before, and it's such a great facility it might lead to them returning to see Pelicans games," Garner said.