Myrtle Beach sports tourism numbers are down $29.4 million since 2016. Here's why.

A previous version of this story stated there was a $35 million drop. The story has been updated with the correct amount.

Sports tourism and its economic impact on the City of Myrtle Beach took a hard hit between 2016 and 2017 with a $29.4-million drop, according to the city's sports tourism department.

At a Myrtle Beach City Council meeting Tuesday, sports tourism director Tim Huber presented the numbers, saying the problem stemmed from three factors: one-time events, consolidation of some sports and improvements to Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium.

"If we want to compare 2016 to 2018 we’re projecting that the direct spending impact from track and field and Doug Shaw will be greater, so we’ll gain some of that back," Huber said. "The one-time events, they’re something we always try for and we’re constantly bidding for and we kind of really look at those as the cherry on top. We’re not always going to be in a position every year as a community to have an event that’s going to have that great of impact."

The one-time events, such as the National Archery in Schools program, change locations each year, Huber said. The event brought in just over $7 million for the city in 2016.

The biggest factor was a decrease in the cheer and dance teams that came to the beach. According to graph provided by the department, about $26 million was lost just from changes to cheer and dance in 2017.

A graph showing the change in cheer and dance sports tourism since 2013.

In 2017, profits from cheer and dance events were the lowest they've been in five years.

"We’re anticipating we’re going to see a leveling off," Huber said. "We don’t see a continuing to lose cheer athletes for that third category. We see a stabilization taking place within that sport."

As for Doug Shaw, Huber said he is hopeful that once events start taking place at the stadium again the economic impact will double from 2017 to 2018.

In total, about $35 million was lost due to these three factors. However, increases in sports such as baseball, gymnastics and wrestling made up the difference, bringing to total money lost near $29.4 million.

For former Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes, who spent much of his time focused on sports tourism, the news came as a shock.

"There's been a lot of consolidation of events, but I had no idea it was going to show a $35-million decrease," Rhodes said. "So that just means we gotta get on the ball and diversify in some ways and hit it hard running and grab the events.

"It's like anything else, when you have a down year you don't quit. You go back and double down and hit again. One of the things, the numbers may be down but the demand is not. What I'm saying is you may have an event coming that doesn't have 50 teams this year, they only have 40 or 35 and you just gotta look at things being rebuilt. I think there are avenues that we have to look at."

Part of the problem, Rhodes said, is competition from other areas such as Virginia Beach, Virginia and Rock Hill. In order to compete, Rhodes suggested considering an increase in field rental charges.

"I don't think we charge too much for the facilities," Rhodes said. "I think there may have to be some adjustments there and have a little bit more flexibility, but when you look at the accommodations, we're in the right price range. We're cheaper than staying in Mt. Pleasant, we're cheaper than staying in Charlotte or Atlanta."

Compared to 2016, 2017 brought in roughly $158,000,000 while 2016 brought in just over $187,000,000.

Looking forward

Moving forward, Huber said new sports to the area such as wrestling and gymnastics will help bring profits up as well as incorporating non-traditional sports.

"We do continue to look at new events and bid on these one-time events as well," Huber said. "We’re not in the running for anything in 2018, but we are in the bid for some things in 2020. We are actively pursuing these 'cherry on top' type of events, these one time bid events."

Other sports coming to the area including baseball and fast pitch tournaments have remained steady, which are held in outdoor venues such as Grand Park, Ned Donkle and the Ripken Experience. Huber said growth was seen in sports like wrestling and gymnastics.

Now, Huber said, "it's probably going to be in line to where we were in 2016, kind of in that range of $150 to $160 million. Probably closer to $160 million in reality."