Mayor: Myrtle Beach seeks sponsors to build world’s longest boardwalk

Mayor John Rhodes wants the city to have the longest boardwalk in the world.

Rhodes spoke to representatives from several groups involved in the creation and use of the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk on Thursday at a meeting to discuss the project’s development and future.

“Atlantic City – up until last week, God bless them – had the longest boardwalk in the world. It was 4.5 miles,” Rhodes said, referring to damage caused by superstorm Sandy to the iconic New Jersey boardwalk.

Rhodes said it’s his goal to extend the Myrtle Beach boardwalk to 4.6 miles.

“It’s going to take $20 million to do it. So we have to find someone, even if it’s through naming rights, to put up the 20 million. It’s not far-fetched. They do it at stadiums and football fields,” he said, adding that the city is looking for sponsors to help fund the boardwalk’s extension.

Rhodes said he is looking at multiple ways to secure the money needed for the extension but added that the city has put together a small presentation that they plan to show companies or organizations that could potentially sponsor either the entire boardwalk or a portion.

“That’s how things get paid for nowadays without taxation,” Rhodes told The Sun News.

He said they have yet to meet with anyone about the sponsorship opportunity, but he is looking to begin to contact organizations soon. Rhodes said no matter how the project is funded, it would have to first be approved by council.

News of a boardwalk extension came as a surprise to Councilman Phil Render, who contacted The Sun News after seeing a version this article online and said he had no idea about the project.

“I’m concerned about raising folks’ hopes in these somewhat difficult economic times over an unfunded $20 million project,” he said.

The boardwalk stretches 1.2 miles from First Avenue North to 14th Avenue North. The city entered a deal with Chip Smith, owner of Banditos Restaurant and Cantina, to extend the boardwalk by about 425 feet north to include the restaurant. The extension, expected to be complete by March 2013, would take the boardwalk to 15th Avenue North, said Mike Wooten of DDC Engineers and designer of the boardwalk.

Wooten said that to reach the 4.6 miles that Rhodes is seeking, the boardwalk would extend two miles south to Springmaid Pier and another mile north.

The boardwalk was designed in three sections – from First Avenue North to Eighth Avenue North, from Eighth Avenue North to 10th Avenue North and from 10th Avenue North to 14th Avenue North.

In the northern section, the boardwalk is 8 feet wide, but Wooten said he hopes to be able to widen it in the future. He said S.C. law prohibited the boardwalk from being built any wider than 8 feet, but he’s working with legislators to change that.

“In the next few years hopefully we can widen it and make it much more friendly to people,” Wooten said.

Once the boardwalk opened in 2010, many business owners saw a boost in revenue and owners of vacant properties in the downtown area took notice, said David Sebok, executive director of the Myrtle Beach Downtown Redevelopment Corporation.

“When the Pavilion closed, it was a huge scare for the downtown area,” Sebok said. “People wanted to just roll it up and push it into the ocean.”

Burroughs & Chapin closed the amusement park in 2006 and by 2007 it had been demolished. The company leases the 11 acres once occupied by the Pavilion.

Steve Warner, senior vice president of capital strategies and investments for Burroughs & Chapin, said the company is looking at taking 2.2 acres closest to the ocean and developing some type of attraction.

“We’ll probably build something on the entertainment side,” Warner said.

He said nothing would happen for at least a few years and had no details other than knowing the company is looking at putting something there.

“We recognize that this is a huge opportunity [for Burroughs & Chapin] to do something unique,” Sebok said.