A Different World

Does Myrtle Beach lose money on Memorial Day weekend because of Bikefest?

While driving to the office in Myrtle Beach after leaving the gym yesterday morning, I overheard a discussion on WRNN talk radio about my column from Sunday, which detailed the economic impact on our area of things such as “Myrtle Manor” and the Atlantic Beach Memorial Day Bikefest.

The conclusion of at least one of the hosts seemed to be that it cost Myrtle Beach much more in terms of preparation, equipment, overtime for police officers, etc., than Bikefest could possibly be bringing in. She didn’t cite any figures or studies or hard data to back up her claim, she just knew. I instantly she was wrong but I wanted to make sure I got some hard data before pointing out why.

I’ll detail why this discussion is important in my next column, but here’s a somewhat short answer:

At most, Myrtle Beach will spend maybe $5 million over the next couple of years on training, resources, overtime pay, etc. - and that is if you assign all of those costs only to Bikefest even though the city is spending that money to deal with events year round, not just Bikefest.

As I pointed out in Sunday’s piece, at Bikefest’s peak, an estimated $34 million was pumped into Myrtle Beach’s economy every day during that event. I only mentioned three days, but Bikefest is spread out over 4. And that does not include indirect economic benefits.

Even if you assume that Bikefest is at half its peak, it would still be bringing in at least $17 million every day, in addition to indirect economic benefits no one has fully accounted for.

It is true, as Myrtle Beach Spokesman Mark Kruea makes plain in the emailed message below, that the city is doing more in preparation for Bikefest than any other event.

But no matter how you slice it, Bikefest - if we are just looking at the economic bottom line - is a net plus for our area.

We can guess how different Memorial Day would be if Bikefest was banned and pretend we know - just know - the crowds would be larger while never factoring in how many people end up moving here, when they grow up, because they learned about this place first through Bikefest in the same way many retirees find their way back here because of their youthful trips to Myrtle Beach.

From Kruea:

“We stepped up this year to address pedestrian and motorist safety for the Atlantic Beach Memorial Day Bikefest, and that has been expensive. No other event requires this level of attention, effort, training or resources, because no other event is like the Atlantic Beach Memorial Day Bikefest. The pedestrian and vehicular volumes and concentrations are unique and quite large. However, much of the new equipment that we are purchasing has a year-round application. While we are likely using it for the first time during the Memorial Day weekend, it will have a much longer life. In round numbers, I’d estimate that we are spending approximately $4.1 million over the next two or three years (including the current fiscal year) for such things as police officers’ body cameras, pedestrian and vehicular barricades, on-street surveillance cameras (and the system to operate them) and other things. Some of the extra expense for the Atlantic Beach Bikefest goes toward the per diem for the additional law enforcement officers, but that’s a small amount compared to, say, the purchase of a $1.2 million camera operating system. We won’t know actual overtime costs for city staff until after the fact, but would estimate that in the $200,000-plus range at this point. Again, no other event requires this much effort, so there’s really nothing comparable. The Parks Division may have several hundred to as much as one thousand dollars of overtime for the Fourth of July, if that gives you some idea of the magnitude.”