Close your eyes for a quick game of word association with the phrase "Myrtle Beach sports." If you're like most folks who are familiar with the South Carolina seaside community, then images come to mind of a little, white ball on a large, green landscape.
But, thanks to an initiative by local municipalities to expand their sports tourism options, the "Grand Strand" – the area's 60-mile stretch of coast – is about a lot more than golf. With the additions of numerous sports venues for recreational tournaments and events, Myrtle Beach is quickly becoming a hub for teams and athletes to compete while their families also enjoy a vacation.
New Myrtle Beach sports center — Photo courtesy of City of Myrtle Beach
"The new facilities and amenities being offered are a fantastic way to host even more sporting events," says Brad Dean, Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce president. "We have truly become a destination that appeals to athletes of all ages and abilities . . . And when they're not competing, these athletes and their friends and family have a wealth of wonderful attractions to explore along our 60 miles of pristine beaches."
The newest addition to the Grand Strand's sports venue lineup is the Myrtle Beach Sports Center, a 100,000-square-foot gymnasium designed to host basketball, volleyball, wrestling and other indoor sports. The state-of-the-art, $12.4 million facility is scheduled to open in March 2015 and attract more tourists during the offseason.
The Myrtle Beach Sports Center will include space for eight basketball courts or 16 volleyball courts, a cafe and retail area, an entertainment zone and seating capacity for 1,500 to 2,000 spectators.
This space is configurable for numerous indoor sporting events, such as the already-booked Winter Bump AA Volleyball Tournament and the Hot Shots Basketball Tournament, which draws hundreds of teams and thousands of athletes.
In its first year, the sports complex is projected to generate $6.9 million in direct visitor spending, according to an economic viability study commissioned by the chamber. By its fifth year, that number is expected to reach $28.4 million annually. Two-thirds of the additional visitor revenue will occur outside of the peak summer tourism season.
Once completed, the Myrtle Beach Sports Center will join Grand Park at The Market Common and the North Myrtle Beach Park Sports and Recreation Complex as the latest local venues to open since 2010. All three facilities are capable of hosting large numbers of sporting events and teams in the Grand Strand, which already boasts Pelicans Ballpark, Myrtle Beach Speedway and more than 100 golf courses.
Now there's a lot more to do in Myrtle Beach than play golf.